News Round Up

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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The Independent (

Daily Mirror (

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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The Guardian (

The Independent (

Daily Mirror (

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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The Guardian (

The Independent (

Daily Mail (

WHAT do you do when a 'party bus' fails to turn up for a six year old boy's birthday party?

Wait for the police to arrive of course!

The BBC tells us that when the bus didn't arrive for the party for Anna Banyard's son Alexander and 21 friends at her home in Warfield, Berkshire a friend tweeted for help and police turned up with a riot van!

Anna commented: “We rushed outside with Alexander and there was a riot van, a sergeant and a PC. It was mad.

"They immediately invited Alexander to sit in the driver's seat and press all the buttons. They opened up the side doors and the back doors and just let the kids pile in.”



Bit of gory historical news in The Independent

A red silk velvet bag discovered in the attic of West Horsley Place, a stately home in Surrey, could be the one used to carry the severed head of explorer Sir Walter Raleigh.

The Mary Roxburghe Trust, the charity which manages the manor house, has asked historians to examine the bag.

Some historians believe Lady Raleigh kept her husband’s embalmed head in a red bag by her side wherever she went but other accounts reckon she kept it inside a bag at West Horsley Place, where she lived with her son for four years.



Some fascinating items are up for sale in an auction from a collection put together by Christopher Cone and Stanley J Seeger, reports The Guardian.

Seeger, a wealthy and reclusive American heir who once owned one of Britain’s grandest homes, Sutton Place, died in 2014. His partner, Cone, has held a number of sales from their huge collections since then.

“He is having a clear out,” said David Macdonald of Sotheby’s, who is in charge of the sale. “But what an amazing clear out. There are quite serious things and fun things.”

Objects including Marilyn Monroe’s squashed picnic basket, Pablo Picasso’s cigarette box and a Fabergé copper pot given out to First World War Russian soldiers.

Other items include the judge’s copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover that he relied on during the 1960 obscenity trial; Lord Byron’s snuff box and a beautifully carved canoe from Kerala, India, which the couple hung from the timber rafters of their home.



When lakes at Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, were drained in a bid to save a bridge, a series of mysterious rooms were revealed, says the BBC.

The stately Oxfordshire home needs to remove 400,000 tonnes of silt to protect the Grade I-listed Grand Bridge which contains more than 30 rooms that were flooded when Lancelot "Capability" Brown created lakes on the estate in the 1760s.

It contains ground floor rooms with fireplaces and chimneys, and a large windowless chamber that appears to be a theatre and discoveries range from graffiti dating from the 1760s to sunken boats used for reed cutting in the 1950s.

Head of estates Roy Cox said: “We're currently undertaking a full internal 3D survey as part of a major restoration project.

“It has already revealed a large number of rooms and passageways, some containing original plasterwork, stairways and potentially cooking ranges.



An article in the Daily Mirror explains that Britain is going to become more crowded and an ever-increasing proportion of the inhabitants will be pensioners.

They quote findings from the Office for National Statistics, which says the population is now at a record high of 66million – and will rise even further.

It is estimated that the UK will house 70million people by 2029 and 72.9million by 2041.

Ten years ago just 15.9 per cent of the population was aged 65 and over but last year that

reached 18.2 per cent, which is 12million, and is set to be 24 per cent by 2037 – one in every four Britons.



Volunteers carried more than 2,000 books the 150 metres to new premises for a community bookshop in Southampton.

The Guardian says that a rent increase left October Books unable to afford their old premises so 250 people formed a human chain to their new home in a former bank building that October Books managed to buy with funds raised from donations and loans, where the stock will be kept in the old vault.

“It was a tremendous show of support and community and we’re moved and incredibly touched by it. We are of, and for, our community and it is truly heartening to see that reciprocated,” said Clare Diaper, who works at the bookshop.

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The Independent (

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  • BBC (

THE death of the Queen's 12 year old dog Whisper has brought to an end a personal connection with the Corgi breed dating back to 1944 when she received Susan, her first Pembroke Corgi as an 18th birthday present.

The Daily Mail said that Whisper had become a royal favourite following the death earlier this year of Willow – the last corgi the Queen reared herself.

All her subsequent corgis – apart from Whisper – can trace their lineage back to Susan, and the Queen became an expert on the breed.

She had taken in the dog in 2016 after its owner Bill Fenwick, a former Sandringham gamekeeper, died. 

Although she still has two dogs, Candy and Vulcan, they are dorgis, dachshund and corgi crosses.

A source told the Mail: “Whisper was a friendly chap and followed her everywhere.”



Half of people taking up guitar lessons are female, according to a new study.

The Guardian outlines research in the UK and US by guitar manufacturer Fender.

Almost three-quarters (72 per cent) of those picking up the guitar did so because they wanted to gain a life skill or better themselves, according to Fender’s survey of 500 new and aspirational guitarists, with 42 per cent saying they viewed the guitar as part of their identity.

Half of all British respondents said they preferred to play privately, 18 per cent more than in the US and 61 per cent said they simply wanted to learn songs to play socially or by themselves, rather than make it big on stage.



The latest casualties of a high-tech world seem to be alarm clocks and door knockers, says the Daily


Leading department store John Lewis has reduced its range of alarm clocks by 30 per cent as people turn to mobiles for their wake-up call.

And sales of knockers have fallen by nine per cent because of smart doorbells with features such as video streaming and phone apps.

Also the days of small televisions and DVD players also seem to be numbered, with the most commonly sold screen size doubling to 70 in from 2010's 36 in.



The Independent informs us that the origin of a mysterious golden relic has been identified after leaving archaeologists baffled for almost 150 years.

The small, flat golden plate was discovered alongside a female skeleton and a coin at a grave site beneath York station in 1872.

Now now a team at Yorkshire Museum - alongside experts from around the world – have announced it is a Roman mouth plaque dating from the third century.

It is the only example of its kind in Britain, and one of only 23 discovered worldwide.

The plaque would be used to cover the mouth of a dead body, and experts said it would usually be used for a person of high status.



Up for sale is a rare copy of the first ever Bible to be printed in English.

The Daily Express reports that the bible, which was translated directly from the Hebrew and Greek by Protestant reformist William Tyndale in 1536, could fetch as much as £10,000 at Chiswick Auctions, West London, on November 28.

Reference list:

The Express (

The Guardian (

The Independent (

Daily Mail (