News Round Up

ACCORDING to an article in The Guardian newspaper, conservationists could release wildcats captured from other European countries into the Scottish Highlands.

Recent genetic testing by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland of 276 Scottish wildcat samples found those in the wild are so heavily interbred with domestic cats that they are close to becoming functionally extinct.

It is believed the trend could be reversed by capturing pure-bred wildcats on the continent and releasing them in isolated and unspoilt parts of the Highlands, hoping they can replenish the Scottish population with pure wildcat DNA.



On display in the Isle of Man is a tin of mince pies baked during World War Two which was discovered preserved under the floorboards of a hotel.

The BBC reports that they were a wartime gift from a mother to her sailor son, which were uncovered during renovation work at the Loch Hotel in Douglas in 1998 but later left forgotten in storage at the Manx Museum.

Matthew Richardson, curator of social history for Manx National Heritage, said they were a “unique" reflection of the “human” stories behind the war.

It is thought that air-tight conditions under the hotel floor may have helped preserve the treats for almost 80 years.

Hotels and boarding houses along Douglas promenade were used to house soldiers and sailors during the war and Mr Richardson believes the pies may have been concealed under the floorboards to prevent them from being stolen by other soldiers.



According to The Independent, the Government is considering forcing shoppers to pay double the current 5p charge for carrier bags at all stores across England. And the new 10p charge will apply to all shops, not just large retailers.

An estimated 3.6 billion single-use bags are supplied annually by smaller retailers which are exempt from the current 5p bag levy.



The Tate Museum in London has acquired four watercolours of working women by the suffragette and human rights campaigner Sylvia Pankhurst using funds from the billionaire Denise Coates.

The Guardian reports the paintings show women at work in the cotton mills of Glasgow and the potteries of Staffordshire, and are part of a series that Pankhurst made as she toured industrial working environments in 1907.

Helen Pankhurst, Sylvia’s granddaughter, said the family was delighted that Tate had acquired some of the paintings.

“Sylvia was an artist as well as a champion of working women’s rights, her first passion not as well known as her second. In these beautiful pieces these interests are powerfully combined.”



Professor Stephen Hawking and former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher have been named on a shortlist on figures who could feature on the new £50 note.

The Independent says that Bank of England governor Mark Carney had previously announced that the new polymer note would celebrate British achievement in science and that only people making a contribution to scientific fields would be deemed eligible,.

But explaining why Margaret Thatcher had been included in the shortlist, a Bank spokesman said: “She had a degree in chemistry, [and] went on to work as a research chemist – famously working on the research team which helped invent soft scoop ice cream.”

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The Independent (


SALES of cactus in the UK have 'spiked' says an article in the Daily Mail who report that one national garden centre chain claims sales have gone up by more than 50 per cent.

Apparently the Christmas craze for cacti is the culmination of a trend that has seen them become the hottest plants in Britain this year.

Eddy Harris, secretary of the British Cactus and Succulent Society (BCSS) commented: “Owners — young people especially — love them because they're very easy to look after. You only have to water them during the growing months, typically March to October, and even then it's once a week.”



Staying in the UK is a renowned piece of Salvador Dalí surrealist artwork after it was acquired for £853,000 by the National Galleries of Scotland (NGS).

The Guardian reports that the 'lobster telephone' had been sold at a Christie’s auction to a foreign buyer but was regarded as too important to be allowed to leave the country.

The lobster phone was made in 1938, one of 11 commissioned by Edward James, the eccentric and wealthy patron of surrealist artists. The lobsters were made to fit bakelite telephones at his house in Wimpole Street, central London, and his country house Monkton in West Sussex

Government ministers placed an export bar on the item to allow a UK gallery time to raise the necessary funds.

The NSG’s director of modern and contemporary art Simon Groom, said :“This major acquisition cements our position as one of the world’s greatest collections of surrealist art … Before this acquisition we had nothing of this kind.”



A survey by Duracell found that the average home on Christmas morning had 30 presents opened with the first chocolate eaten as early as 11.53am.

A Daily Mirror story says that while parents will spend two hours and 16 minutes playing with their children and their new toys, the average youngster will cry at 10.28am because their flustered mum and dad can’t get their new toys to work!

The study of 2,000 adults, including almost 1,000 parents of children aged under 18, found the average child wakes up at 6.07am – 75 minutes earlier than on a ‘normal’ morning.



Big boost for young opera lovers according to The Guardian.

English National Opera is to offer under-18s free Saturday night tickets in a bid to attract the next generation of fans.

ENO chief executive Stuart Murphy is quoted as saying: “We were founded on the belief that opera is for everyone. Removing cost as a barrier to entry for under-18s is a seismic leap forward for ENO and for opera as a whole.”



The Independent newspaper tells us that Chester Zoo has received more than £120,000 in public donations after a fire which killed a number of animals.

Keepers were able to move all the zoo’s mammal species to safety – including its group of critically endangered Sumatran orangutans, Sulawesi macaques, endangered silvery gibbons and birds such as rhinoceros hornbills but some frogs, fish, insects and small birds, also housed in the Monsoon Forest habitat building, could not be saved, leaving staff “heartbroken”.

The zoo described it as “one of the toughest days in our long history”.



Stories about important women in the history of London transport are to be featured in new project, Where Are All the Women?, at the London Transport Museum, says The Guardian.

They include the women of Willesden garage who sparked a nationwide strike over equal pay in 1918, Joy Jarvis, who designed London Transport’s distinctive “roundel” seat fabrics, and the first female tube driver Hannah Dadds.

A museum spokeswoman said:“We are asking people to delve into their family history and tell us about any notable female relatives, ancestors, friends or colleagues who may have worked in the transport industry in the past.”



According to a report featured on the BBC, Britain has twice as many shops as it needs.

Retailer Sir John Timpson, who was looking at the country's high streets, said local councils must be given more money to turn town centres into communities and meeting places, adding that each town centre needed to establish a task force to address issues such as planning.

“It's not just about shopping, it's about communities and creating a hub for entertainment, medical facilities, housing. We probably have about twice as many shops as we needs. But we are short of housing.”

A report last month by accountancy firm PwC found that about 14 shops are closing every day, with High Streets face their toughest trading climate in five years.

Reference list
The Guardian (

The Independent (

Daily Mail (

Daily Mirror (


FANCY working for the Queen?

The Daily Mirror tells us that Buckingham Palace is seeking a housekeeping assistant.

The job comes with the offer of accommodation but the salary is expected to be only £16,000 and applicants must be willing to travel to the Queen's various homes across the UK.

You will be expected to work Monday to Sunday, five days out of seven.

The advert for the job reads: “This is a career pathway in hospitality that will develop your housekeeping skills and expertise.

“Joining our professional team, you'll upkeep, clean and care for a wide range of interiors and items, ensuring they're presented to their very best.

“Learning from your colleagues, you'll gain the specialist professional skills needed, always aiming for the highest standards. And you’ll take care of guests and work front-of-house to support special events too.”



Two famous fictional British exports, Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Who, are at the centre of 'live' immersive attractions aimed at attracting foreign tourists to the UK, says The Guardian.

A Sherlock-themed interactive game, featuring the actor Benedict Cumberbatch and other cast members of the television show, has opened in west London.

Next month a “escape room” experience based on Doctor Who is to open in Bristol before visiting out across five other English cities.



The toll booths on the Severn bridges, which have been in place since 1966, are being removed, reports the BBC, which means that the two motorway crossings into south Wales will be toll free, having been returned to public ownership.

Collector Deborah Hitchins, who is being made redundant, commented: “The bridge tolls have become a tradition over the past 50 years and paying the toll always feels a little begrudgingly symbolic and gives many a feeling of coming home.

"If you're crossing the bridges, by all means, be happy that you won't have to pay for much longer. But also remember that there won't be anyone to welcome you to Wales anymore."

About 25 million journeys a year are made across the two bridges and the Welsh Government estimates the abolition of the tolls will give a £100m boost to the Welsh economy and a £1,400 annual boost to commuters.



Key changes to the World Pie Eating Championships at Harry's Bar in Wigan, Greater Manchester...chicken will be used as a filling because of fears the traditional meat and potato makes eaters break wind.

The Daily Mirror was told by organiser Tony Callaghan, owner of contest venue Harry’s Bar in “We’re steering things away from red meat this year for health considerations and also to avoid the methane issue.”



An article in The Guardian newspaper explains that the journals of Norwegian Tryggve Gran, who discovered the of the frozen body of British explorer Captain Robert Falcon Scott in the Antarctic in 1912, have sold for £150,000.

He was part of the 11-man search party that set off from Cape Evans to find the missing Scott and his team.

Gran’s journal records how he and his team found the bodies of Scott – who he refers to as “The Owner” – and his companions on November 12 1912. They were put up for sale by his son, Herman.

Reference list
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Daily Mirror (


INTERESTING exhibition at Tate Britain in London ...the Guardian has unveiled its annual commission to mark the Christmas season and anarchic artist Monster Chetwynd has installed two giant and illuminated leopard slug sculptures, containing recyclable hessian and wicker and each over 10 metres long.

They are accompanied by swathes of blue and white LED slug trails across the building’s historic facade

She said she was was inspired by a TV documentary that revealed the tricky mating rituals of leopard slugs!

Tate Britain director Alex Farquharson said: “Monster’s commission is playful and anarchic but also engages with the major environmental challenges we face today. I look forward to her giant leopard slugs lighting up the long winter nights and months.”



Supplies of Christmas trees were threatened because of heatwave conditions in the summer, reports The Independent.

Though customers are unlikely to be left without a tree for Christmas, farmers say they must adapt to a future of extreme conditions in order to protect supplies.

“Trees planted in the last two years have suffered significant losses … because the weather was unseasonably dry and hot,” said Adrian Morgan from the British Christmas Tree Growers Association.



A threatened Christmas 'ban' at the Lady Lumley's School in Pickering, North Yorkshire has been overturned.

The BBC says the school had previously told pupils it would ban all festive activities with Religious Education teacher Chris Paul claiming "an avalanche of commercialisation" had robbed the season of its meaning.

However, after hundreds of emails and letters the school relented.

Head teacher Richard Bramley said: “Those students who really thought about the situation and challenged the decision appropriately created the change and brought back Christmas. I hope they and everyone else has a good Christmas.”

He said the challenge was to make students consider the way in which society celebrates Christmas and think about the social problems that arise around this time.



The Guardian informs us that previously unpublished portraits of the composer Igor Stravinsky have come to light following the death of the artist Milein Cosman who died last year at the age of 96.

Cosman also sketched composers including Benjamin Britten, Richard Strauss and Leonard Bernstein, drawing them from life, observing them during rehearsals or concerts, often when they were unaware of her presence.

The collection given to the RCM includes 50 drawings of Stravinsky alone, most sketched at the BBC Studios in Maida Vale, west London, when the composer visited London in 1959.

One of Cosman’s close friends, Julian Hogg, her executor, said: “There are literally hundreds of sketchbooks which we haven’t looked through yet.”



An article in The Independent reports that archaeologists excavating the site of London’s so-called super sewer have discovered a skeleton, thought to be 500 years old, of a man wearing thigh-high leather boots.

The remains were found face down in the mud on the shores of the River Thames in Bermondsey.

Experts said this suggests he fell or drowned and was quickly buried under the silty riverbed as it moved with the tide.

His expensive leather boots, thought to be waders, were reinforced with extra soles and stuffed with an unidentified material – possibly moss – for warmth or comfort.

It indicates the man made his living from the Thames, possibly as a mudlark – who scavenged riverbeds for items of value – or a fisherman.

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The Independent (


    BBC (

    VISITORS to Plymouth next year will be able to see the UK's largest cast bronze sculpture.

    The BBC reports that the seven metre sculpture, called Messenger, which was inspired by an actor's on-stage pose, will be installed outside the Theatre Royal Plymouth.

    The sculptor Joseph Hillier, claimed he was inspired to create it by an actor rehearsing Shakespeare's Othello at the theatre.

    He commented: “This work offers a young, powerful woman, a potent force about to transform the world by her actions. The actor carries the voice of her playwright or director - she carried a message. It's a metaphor for what great theatre does.”

    More than 200 bronze panels are being welded together for the piece which will weigh nine and a half tonnes.

    It is set to be unveiled at the Theatre Royal in spring next year as part of its £7.5m regeneration project.



    Lavish burial sites for women from the fifth and sixth centuries have been discovered by archaeologists in Lincolnshire, says The Guardian.

    Items recovered include jewellery made from amber, silver and glass as well as personal grooming items such as tweezers.

    The dig of the cemetery, containing 20 burials, was carried out over the summer by international volunteers, Sheffield University students and members of the RAF, after a local metal detectorist discovered a number of Anglo-Saxon artefacts, including copper gilded brooches, iron shield bosses and spear heads.

    Dr Hugh Willmott, senior lecturer in European historical archaeology from Sheffield University, said: “These women wore necklaces made from sometimes hundreds of amber, glass and rock crystal beads, used personal items such as tweezers, carried fabric bags held open by elephant ivory rings, and wore exquisitely decorated brooches to fasten their clothing.”



    Leigh-on-Sea in Essex has been named the happiest place to live in the UK, says the Daily Mail.

    The town, close to Southend on the north bank of the Thames estuary, scored highly on several factors, including having a sense of community spirit, good work opportunities, and residents being happy with the local restaurants and shops.

    Valerie Morgan, chair of Leigh-on-Sea town council, said: “Leigh is a very pleasant place to live, we are very close to the sea and there are plenty of opportunities for people to get out and get some fresh air.

    “We're all quite friendly here. People like to pass the time of day with one another, rather than ignore each other.”



    The Metro tells us about Derby man Karl Martin who had been using a 4,000 year old ancient relic from Afghanistan to store his tooth brush!

    Karl, who had been using the pot for the past six years, explained: “It was bought from a car boot sale. I liked it straight away. I suspected it might be very old but forgot all about it. ‘

    He only found out the pot was from the Bronze Age after taking it to a friend to look at. After getting brought up to speed he decided to sell the pot at auction for £80, having purchased it for just £4.



    Interesting piece of news in The Guardian for poetry lovers...a previously unrecorded handwritten manuscript of John Donne’s,dating back 400 years, has been found in a box at Melford Hall in Suffolk.

    Sotheby’s expert Dr Gabriel Heaton was on a “standard checking visit” to the property when he found it in a box with other papers.

    “Nobody knew about it … it was tucked away in a corner, collected with loose archival material around the house and not identified as being by Donne. It was a wonderful and exciting moment.”

    The 17th century poet is regarded as the author of some of the English language’s most enduring poetry.

    Reference list

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    Daily Mail (

    The Metro (

    BBC (