News Round Up

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The Guardian informs us that previously unpublished portraits of the composer Igor Stravinsky have come to light following the death of the artist Milein Cosman who died last year at the age of 96.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

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    BRITISH politicians may be struggling over how to resolve the Brexit issue but that hasn't stopped them enjoying a glass or two of wine.

    An article in The Independent says that wine consumption at government events rose by more than 20 per cent in the past year.

    Foreign Office minister Sir Alan Duncan put it down to “an increased number of larger events" over the last 12 months.

    The Government Hospitality Wine Cellar Annual Report showed the most popular wine served at functions was English and Welsh, making up 57 per cent of the total.

    The cellar is self-funding, with an independent body in charge of buying stocks of vintage wine, keeping them for a number of years then selling them at a profit at auction.

    The money is then used to buy cheaper wine to be drunk at government events that year.



    The Daily Mirror says congratulations to Britain's oldest twins, identical Phyllis Jones and Irene Camp, from Stourport-on-Severn, Worcestershire, who have celebrated their 102nd birthdays!

    Irene’s husband Samuel, a farmer, died in 1999 in his 90s and Phyllis’s husband Ray died in 2006, aged 91.

    Phyllis’s son Carl commented: “They are really feisty – they have to be, being sisters and twins.”



    Benefiting from a clean-up is a 1773 Thomas Gainsborough portrait of his nephew which has had more than a century’s worth of yellowing varnish removed.

    The Guardian reports that a conservator at the National Portrait Gallery in London has cleaned the portrait of Gainsborough Dupont and the results were revealed ahead of the oval portrait’s display as part of the gallery’s exhibition, Gainsborough’s Family Album, which is now open to the public.

    Polly Saltmarsh said: “Having the opportunity to study the techniques Gainsborough has employed in this beautiful portrait has been a highlight of the preparation for the forthcoming exhibition.

    “Removing the old varnish and revealing elements which were previously obscured is very satisfying, and witnessing the reaction of curators and visitors seeing the painting after treatment is a real pleasure.”

    Philip Thicknesse, a close friend of Gainsborough, had eulogised the work calling it “the finest head he ever painted” and “more like the work of God than man”.



    Archaeologists working on an island off the coast of Guernsey have a puzzle on their hands, reports The Guardian.

    Apparently a porpoise was buried in a medieval grave on Chapelle Dom Hue and now the remains of a handless figure have also been found.

    Results of tests on the porpoise have recently come back and suggest it was buried on the island some time in the 15th century.

    But when the tests were being done, the archaeologists spotted a human toe bone exposed in a cliff edge about 10 metres from the porpoise site and found a near-complete human skeleton.

    States of Guernsey archaeologist Philip de Jersey said the body could be that of a monk as it was believed the island was used by residents from a nearby monastery seeking solitude.

    He added: “He is lacking hands and wrist bones, which is mysterious. There are medical reasons a person could lose their hands such as leprosy but the toes are in such good condition it seems unlikely.”

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    IS sleep very important to you? Well if you want a luxurious kip, then the Daily Mirror will point you in the right direction:  Cookes Furniture store in Birmingham is selling the Vispring Diamond Majesty bed which will cost you £75,000!

    Apparently it features the ‘most valuable and rarest natural fibre in the world’- loose vicuna - a type of wool which is said to be ‘more expensive than gold’ and the most valuable and rarest fibre in the world. The Majesty is also said to be ‘ultra-soft, hypo-allergenic, with excellent insulating properties and a solid beech frame. Included in the £75,000 price is a £40,000 mattress, which features a blend of premium materials, including ‘platinum certified’ Shetland wool, cashmere, silk, and bamboo, for a ‘perfect night’s slumber.

    The Daily Mirror reports that a rare silver fox, which may have been kept as a pet, has been found roaming in a garden in Alsager, Cheshire. It has been given the name of Shadow and is now being looked after by RSPCA staff at the charity's Stapeley Grange Wildlife Centre in nearby Nantwich. A spokesman said: “It is likely that Shadow has been kept as a pet and he has either escaped, in which case we need to find his owners, or he has been dumped by his owners.”

    According to the Daily Express, a 14th century cave of mystical carvings which was once used by the Knights Templar, has been put on the English Heritage at Risk Register because of increasing water damage, which have created holes within the ancient artwork at Royston Cave, in Hertfordshire.  It is believed that the cave was once used as a secret meeting place by the Order of the Knights Templar, a religious-military institution of the Catholic Church who were established at the time of the Crusades, before their dissolution in 1312.

    Government advisers on climate change reckon tree planting must double by 2020 as part of radical changes to land use in the UK. The Guardian says that new forests would lock up carbon but also help to limit the more frequent floods expected with global warming.  The article says that the Committee on Climate Change said land currently used to produce food would need to be converted to woodland, growing crops to produce energy and for new homes to accommodate the growing population. Up to 17 per cent of crop land and 30 per cent of grassland could be converted.

    The Sainsbury's supermarket chain is to become the first to sell edible bugs in the UK, reports The Independent. Customers will be able to buy Eat Grub’s Smoky BBQ Crunchy Roasted Crickets in 250 of the supermarket stores.

    The house crickets, also known as acheta domesticus, are farmed in Europe and come in packets of about 50 for £1.50 per bag.  Rachel Eyre, head of future brands at Sainsbury’s, said: “Insect snacks should no longer be seen as a gimmick or something for a dare, and it’s clear that consumers are increasingly keen to explore this new sustainable protein source.”


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    A rare sight in the animal world... The Independent tells us that a farm in Somerset has announced a cross between a zebra and a donkey.

    Zippy the 'zonkey' was born on Kristine Turner’s 55-acre farm in South Barrow and until his arrival there was thought to be only one other zonkey in Britain. - Zambi who lives on a donkey sanctuary in Shropshire.

    Zippy's mother Ziggy, is a six-year-old zebra, which shares shares the fields with nine donkeys including his father Rag.

    Kristine commented: “Last month I opened my bedroom curtains, which look onto the farm, and I just saw this little foal sitting up staring my way. I was in complete shock.

    “He’s half a wild animal so he’ll nip and kick me a tiny bit but in a cheeky way.”



    According to the Daily Express, manuscripts written by a teenage Charlotte Bronte that remained unseen for nearly 200 years have been published for the first time.

    They were discovered inside a book once belonging to the Bronte's mother Maria that was sold to an America-based collector in the 1860s and which were purchased by the Bronte Society for a fee thought to be in excess of £170,000 in 2016.

    Now Bronte scholars have now taken transcripts and images of the pages and published them within a new release called Charlotte Bronte: The Lost Manuscripts. The pieces date to 1833 and feature a short story and poem.

    Ann Dinsdale, the curator of the Brontë Parsonage Museum, said: “These documents are incredibly significant, being among the earliest of Charlotte Bronte's writings.”



    Collins Dictionary's word of the year for 2018 is 'single-use' a term referring to products – often made of plastic –that are made to be used once and then thrown away., according to The Guardian.

    “The word [single-use] has seen a four-fold increase since 2013,” says the dictionary

    The dictionary defines single-use as “made to be used once only”, calling it “a term that describes items whose unchecked proliferation are blamed for damaging the environment and affecting the food chain.”

    Other contenders for word of the year in 2018 included plogging, a Scandinavian craze in which joggers also pick up litter; gammon, meaning “a person, typically male, middle-aged and white, with reactionary views, especially one who supports the withdrawal of Britain from the European Union”; and floss, the victory dance performed in the video game Fortnite.



    You may find it hard to believe but apparently more than 7,000 UK homes are still watching television in black and white!

    A Daily Mail article explains that despite colour transmission beginning more than 50 years ago,

    figures, released by TV Licensing, show that 7,161 UK households are yet to switch over.

    The number of black and white licences issued each year has steadily declined - in 2000, there were 212,000 black and white TV licences in force, but by 2003 the number had shrunk to 93,000. By 2015, it had dipped below 10,000.



    Did you know – I bet you didn't – that the authorities in the British parliament spent £10,785 on pest control, an increase of nearly 600 per cent from £1,581 whilst nearly £30,000 was forked out on flying hawks to scare away pigeons.

    A Daily Express story has outlined the lengths officials are going to in their efforts to stop vermin taking over the historic grade one listed complex.

    A Parliamentary spokesman explained: “The high volume of restoration and maintenance works across the Estate has disrupted pests, making them more visible and increasing the need for pest control measures including hawk flying.”



    On display for the first time will be the mourning dress worn by Queen Victoria after the death of her grandson from Russian flu.

    The Guardian reports that it will be part of an exhibition highlighting the ongoing threat from epidemics.

    The tiny black silk and crepe dress was made for the queen in 1892 following the death of Prince Albert Victor, known as Prince Eddy, who was 28 and second in line to the throne when he was struck by the illness a month before his wedding and will be on show at the Museum of London,.

    The exhibition has been staged to mark the centenary of the 1918-19 Spanish flu epidemic, which killed between 50 and 100 million people worldwide.

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