It’s just possible you have heard about Hurricane Ophelia, the remnants of which are battering the Republic of Ireland and parts of the UK (and from where I’m sitting, appear to have turned the sky over London a strange shade of yellow).
Given the British obsession with weather, perhaps it should be no surprise that the prospect of some 80mph gusts is dominating headlines. Handily too, the stiff breeze has turned up three decades after the Great Storm of 1987, which has provided an excuse for lots of recollections of Michael Fish telling people not to worry about hurricanes. (He’s usually misquoted but hey ho.)
True enough, the Met Office has warned of there being danger to life so let’s not be too dismissive. Moreover, there is little more immediate or primordial than weather conditions – I’m the first to admit to a fair bit of cloud-watching over the years; what I can’t predict about the likely route and ferocity of a “passing shower” is, well, considerable.
Nevertheless, it was notable this weekend that, aside from the ongoing sex abuse scandal enveloping Harvey Weinstein, few other news stories got a look in when it came to media front pages.
In particular, Saturday’s truck bomb in the Somalian capital, Mogadishu, received moderately little attention, despite taking the lives of more than 300 people and injuring hundreds more. If such an attack took place in the UK, or elsewhere in Europe – or frankly anywhere else in the West – it would plainly have taken centre stage for weeks. As it is, it seems to have fallen into that category of grim attack in a far-off country beset by an Islamist-inspired, militant insurgency – nasty, of course, but not something that affects us directly and or about which we can do very much.
Somalia, indeed, is far down the list of nations we might think of in that bracket of troubled places. We know all about Syria and Iraq; and quite a lot about Libya. Yemen is next in line; and of course the kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls by Boko Haram in 2014 brought awareness to the horror of Islamist terrorism in Nigeria.
If we think much of Somalia it is probably in connection with pirates, although ironically the piracy problem has improved considerably in recent years. If not pirates, then our first thought may be connected to the UN and US intervention in the east African country in 1992 and 1993 – mainly because one battle during the international effort to bring order to Somalia was immortalised in the film Black Hawk Down.
Inevitably, the situation in the country today is highly complex. A parliamentary election with full suffrage was planned for last year – the first democratic vote since 1969. In the event, ongoing civil strife meant there was an indirect election in which delegates appointed by senior clan leaders chose members of parliament on behalf of the people.
With the United Nations backing the slow process towards democracy and African Union soldiers bolstering the government and its local law enforcement forces, al-Shabaab remains the primary opposition group. Having emerged from the Union of Islamic Courts which held sway in Mogadishu as recently as 2006, the terror group has gradually lost control of most urban areas. But it still has a few thousand fighters in its ranks and – as it proved once again this weekend – is capable of bringing mass slaughter to Somali streets.
The notion of moral equivalence is bandied about far too easily, usually to suggest that relatively wealthy, predominantly white Westerners don’t care about relatively poor, mostly non-white foreigners in war-torn or disease-ridden places a long way away. It is, for the most part, an overly-simplistic narrative which seeks to downplay the perfectly reasonable interests (and fears) of ordinary folk in their own lives and their localities. News, fundamentally, is context-specific: to argue otherwise is disingenuous.
Nevertheless, it is tempting sometimes to wonder if we should pay a little more attention to difficult political situations in far-flung parts of the world; and rather less to the potential consequences of a system of moderate low pressure in the Atlantic, no matter how much hot air it produces.
The mini-bus engine chugged, and its driver stuck his head out of the window as he waited for the gates to Mariners Park to open. ‘Big time, eh?’ shouted Graham Fenton.
Less than 48 hours after the FA cup romantically fluttered its eyelids at South Shields, life had returned to normal and Fenton, the team’s joint manager, was back ferrying young hopeful footballers from college to training.
A football ground that had squeezed 2900 people in on Saturday afternoon for an all-north east FA Cup tie was largely silent again. South Shields had come close to another scalp – after York and Darlington. They had led one-nil in the first half and then struck a crossbar. Hartlepool rallied and struck twice in the second half.
It ended a cup dream, but not something much bigger. The loss was Shields’ second in the last 54 games. Fenton, capped for England at Under-21 level and a twice League Cup winner as a player, is moving a football club with genuine ambitions to enter the Football League.
“Do we have the aspiration to be the fourth biggest club in the north east? Yeah, why not?” he says. “You look at the way the place is going at the moment, it’s really positive, our gates are excellent, the owner has huge ambitions to take it further and obviously we realise it will be very difficult but why not aim to fourth in the north east.
“We showed in results against York and Darlington that we can compete against them. We are trying to do things right. It is coinciding things are happening quite quickly. We have the infrastructure behind the scenes to deal with it.”
Fenton is filling his non-league CV with trophies. That always catches they eye. He won the FA Vase at Wembley with North Shields and was approached by the Souths Shields owner Geoff Thompson, a successful local businessman. He moved across the river Tyne with Lee Picton and the pair became joint managers. South Shields romped to the Northern League Division One title (they currently sit five points clear at the top of the Evo Stick North (tier eight). There was also another Wembley appearance for Fenton as South Shields won the Vase.
“The two finals were hugely proud moments,” he adds. “The work you put in behind the scenes at North Shields and then here, with a lot of people, and you realise it was worth it.
“We’ve just set the academy up. Geoff’s vision of the football club is to promote young local talent over the next few years into the first team. We have an opportunity to go around the area, attract decent players, work on them for two or three years to see if we can get them into the first team. They’re educated at Sunderland college and they train full time. It’s a big ask for them.
“Myself and Lee are pretty much doing 75 hours a week at the minute. There is a huge feeling around the club of everybody pulling together. Everybody wants to make this happen.”
Fenton is 43 now. At 19, his third appearance for Aston Villa was a cup final against Manchester United.
“It’s difficult to surpass that,” he adds. “It’s your third game in the first team playing against Man United, who did the double that year and you beat them. The 21 cap was brilliant. It would have been brilliant if it had been at Wembley but it was at St James’ and that was a special occasion. The big occasions are not so nice if you reflect back and you haven’t won the game.”
The Mariners are currently leading the Evo Stick North (Getty)
Defeat to Hartlepool did not bring that. “The support was brilliant. It was absolutely tremendous.The whole community is pulling together with the football club and it’s great to be around.”
There have been darker times. Fenton, a son of the north east, left Aston Villa in 1995 to join Blackburn for £1.5 million and two years later, he moved again, this time to Leicester. He admits that period of his life led to depression.
“There is a lot of stuff in the media at the minute about mental health, when you’re going through it, you don’t even realise,” he says. “I was hugely depressed. That old, stiff upper lip I guess. ‘Get on with it, why are you feeling sorry for yourself?’ You don’t realise it until you reflect back when you’re in a better place.
“It was a bad seven years. Three years at Leicester were difficult and then it just carried on from there. Performances during that time were poor. When you’re not enjoying it you might as well chuck your boots in the bin.
South Shields want to become the fourth biggest club in the North East (Getty)
“I stumbled across management. Paul Baker was at Blyth Spartans. He invited me in as assistant manager. I started enjoying football again. I hadn’t enjoyed it for seven years. I’m massively grateful to get this opportunity and get my love of the game back. For seven years I hated it.
“When you’re in a good football club and a good dressing room, there is no better place to be. You meet fantastic people and you have great experiences and good laughs. It’s a great life, when it’s going well.”
And despite Saturday, for South Shields and Fenton, it is.
The last two surviving leaders of a deadly siege in the southern Philippines were killed Monday in a push by thousands of troops to retake the last pocket of Marawi city still held by pro-Islamic State militants, security officials said.
Four military and police officials said that Isnilon Hapilon, who is listed among the FBI’s most-wanted terror suspects, and Omarkhayam Maute were killed in a gun battle and their bodies were found in Marawi.
Marawi is a mosque-studded centre of Islamic faith in the south of the predominantly Roman Catholic nation.
Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana later said: “Yes, they are confirmed dead.”
Mr Lorenzana said DNA tests would be done on the remains of the two militant leaders to pave the way for the payment of huge US and Philippine bounties offered for the two.
A top Malaysian militant, Mahmud bin Ahmad, who uses the nom de guerre Abu Handzalah and is a close associate of Hapilon, has not been found and was among the remaining militants being hunted by troops, he said.
Hapilon has been blamed by the US for ransom kidnappings of several Americans, one of whom was beheaded in 2001 in southern Basilan province.
Hapilon had been indicted in the District of Columbia for his alleged involvement in terrorist acts against US nationals and other foreigners.
Military leaders had said last month that three leaders of the militants who began the siege of the lakeside city on May 23 were killed in the months of fighting but the two still alive were leading a final stand.
More than 1,000 people have been killed in the Marawi violence, including more than 800 militants.
Army Colonel Romeo Brawner said Sunday about 40 militants were still fighting in a small hilly residential area by Lanao Lake, including 100 relatives of the gunmen and civilian hostages.
On Saturday, troops attempted to rescue several hostages but only snatched a 16-year-old female captive because of intense militant fire, which wounded an army battalion commander and more than 20 other soldiers, Col Brawner said.
The rescued hostage provided the crucial information that allowed troops to locate Hapilon and Maute in one building, Mr Lorenzana said.
Among the last batch of surviving fighters were about 10 foreigners, mostly Malaysians and Indonesians, but there were no immediate word about their condition, the military said.
President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in the south, the scene of decades-old Muslim separatist uprising, to deal with the siege, the worst crisis he has faced since rising to power in June last year.
Mr Duterte has gone to the battle area a number of times to rally the troops, once firing a sniper rifle toward militant position.
He has vowed to have the militants killed to the last man because of the deaths and destruction wrought by the violence in Marawi.
Eva Green has claimed she was forced to “push off” disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein and was left feeling “shocked and disgusted”.
The Bond actor, who appeared in Casino Royale, is the latest woman to accuse one of Hollywood’s most powerful producers of sexual harassment.
Green’s allegations come after her mother claimed her daughter attempted to dodge his advances but alleged he threatened to destroy her career in response.
During a radio interview, Marlene Jobert said Green was targeted by Weinstein between 2010 and 2011 in Paris. She accused the acclaimed producer of being a “horrible man” who told her daughter he would help her build her career in return for sexual favours.
Speaking to Europe 1 radio in French, she said: “My daughter Eva was a victim of this horrible man … he is tenacious, he insisted over the course of several months, from the moment he arrived in Paris, he would start calling her.
“She didn’t respond … she was a little bit intimidated, this guy had so much power. The power over all cinema. He stuck so many sticks in her wheels, because he was angry.
“It’s difficult, (she) took a long time to recover, she preferred to forget and not to talk about it anymore.”
She recalled the way Weinstein approached her daughter, saying: “He was with Eva the way he was with all the others, with the same modus operandi: under the pretext of a professional rendez-vous, with a scenario for him to give out, with a great role at stake.
“And as his office was also in his hotel suite, he asked them to come up and then, great … He promised them, like everyone, to promote their career in exchange for sexual favours.”
Harvey Weinstein: his accusers
Harry Weinstein’s reputation as one of Hollywood’s leading executives was long cemented in stone. The acclaimed movie mogul, who produced Oscar-winning films Shakespeare in Love, The English Patient, and The Artist, clocked up box office successes and accolades aplenty. But this has quickly changed since a chorus of women have come forward to accuse the Hollywood producer of sexual harassment and assault. Since the New York Times’ bombshell report disclosed sexual harassment and rape allegations against the film mogul dating back decades, Weinstein has been fired from his namesake company, expelled from the Oscars and has had his wife leave him. Weinstein has apologised for having “caused a lot of pain” but has denied all allegations of nonconsensual sex.
YANN COATSALIOU/AFP/Getty Images
The actor told The New Yorker that after a meeting to discuss casting her in various projects, Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex on him. “I said, over and over, ‘I don’t want to do this, stop, don’t’.”
She added: “He’s a big guy. He overpowered me. I just sort of gave up. That’s the most horrible part of it, and that’s why he’s been able to do this for so long to so many women: people give up, and then they feel like it’s their fault.”
Madden, a production assistant who worked at Miramax for a decade, told the Times that Weinstein consistently “prodded her for massages at hotels,” a common theme among the sources the Times’s reporters spoke with. On one occasion, she said she locked herself in his hotel bathroom, sobbing
Judd recounted for the Times how Weinstein allegedly harassed her while she was filming Kiss the Girls in 1996, inviting her to his hotel room and asking her for a massage, then inviting her to watch him shower.
Judd first went public with the allegations in a 2015 interview with Variety during which she discussed the experience without naming the producer involved. She described Weinstein’s behavior as “coercive bargaining”; “I said no, a lot of ways, a lot of times, and he always came back at me with some new ask,” she told the Times
McGowan reportedly reached a “previously undisclosed” $100,000 settlement with Weinstein in 1997, over an incident that occurred in a hotel room
According to unnamed former colleagues of Perkins’s who spoke to the Times, Perkins,, Miramax production assistant, allegedly confronted Weinstein about his behaviour toward her and other women at the company. She allegedly threatened to sue him or “go public”; a Miramax lawyer was reportedly tasked with negotiating a settlement
Nestor had been temping at the Weinstein Company for only one day in 2014 when Weinstein allegedly offered to boost her career in return for sexual favors, according to the Times. She declined and reportedly complained of his behaviour to colleagues, who later passed the information on to senior executives. An internal Weinstein Company document cited by the Times describes Nestor’s encounter with Weinstein as follows: “She said he was very persistent and focused though she kept saying no for over an hour”
In March 2015, Battilana, an aspiring model and actress, was reportedly summoned to Weinstein’s office on a Friday night to discuss her career.
According to a police report cited by the Times, Battilana said she was assaulted by Weinstein, who “grabbed her breasts after asking if they were real and put his hands up her skirt.”
Weinstein later claimed that Battilana had set him up, according to colleagues of his who were interviewed by the Times.
The Manhattan District Attorney, Cyrus Vance, later declined to press charges, and according to the Times, “made a payment” to Battilana. On 5 October, the International Business Times reported that after Vance dropped the charges, he received $10,000 from Weinstein’s lawyer
Lauren O’Connor, an employee of the Weinstein Company, penned a memo to executives alleging “a toxic environment for women” at the company. The memo cited numerous incidents of Weinstein harassing or coercing women who worked for him. She expressed fear that Weinstein was using her and other female employees to “facilitate liaisons with ‘vulnerable women who hope he will get them work.’” That same year, Weinstein allegedly reached a settlement with O’Connor
The actor, who starred in the Weinstein Company films Serendipity and The Aviator, said she was invited to Weinstein’s hotel room at the age of just 17. When she approached the door, the producer greeted her dressed in just a dressing gown.
“I was incredibly naive and young and it did not cross my mind that this older, unattractive man would expect me to have any sexual interest in him,” she wrote on Instagram. “After declining alcohol and announcing that I had school in the morning I left, uneasy but unscathed.”
Theo Wargo/Getty Images
The actor alleges that after he cast her in the title role of the film Emma when she was 22, he took her to his hotel room, placed his hands on her and suggested massages.
“I was a kid, I was signed up, I was petrified,” Paltrow told the New York Times.
Italian actress Asia Argento has alleged that in 1997 Weinstein forcibly performed oral sex on her as she repeatedly told him to stop.
“When I see him, it makes me feel little and stupid and weak,” Argento told The New Yorker. “After the rape, he won”.
The British model and actress penning an Instagram post claiming that Weinstein had ordered her to kiss another woman in his hotel room, and tried to kiss her on the lips.
French actress Judith Godrèche said when she was 24 Weinstein invited her to his hotel room and asked to give her a massage.
“The next thing I know, he’s pressing against me and pulling off my sweater,” she told the New York Times.
The Oscar-winning actor said she found herself in a hotel room with Weinstein in 1995 where “he started massaging my shoulders, which made me very uncomfortable, and then tried to get more physical, sort of chasing me around.” According to an interview in The New Yorker Weinstein subsequently arrived at her apartment late at night and she had to call a friend to come over to pose as her boyfriend in order to get Weinstein out of the house.
The actress said Weinstein undressed and chased her around a living room when she was just 23. She subsequently felt that telling others meant “I’ll never work again and no one is going to care or believe me,” she told the New York Times.
As an aspiring actress and working in a restaurant in New York, Tomi-Ann Roberts encountered Weinstein who encouraged her to audition for one of his films back in 1984. She subsequently went to meet him and found him naked in the bath and invited her to get naked and get into the bath with him, she told the New York Times. She said she left feeling manipulated.
It has also been alleged that the disgraced film producer propositioned Myleene Klass with a “sex contract” at Cannes Film Festival in 2010.
One of the singer and television personality’s friends reportedly told The Sun, Klass had told Weinstein to “f*** off”.
Sophie Dix, best known for her role as Captain Sadie Williams in Soldier Soldier, described her encounter with Weinstein when she was 23 as “the single most damaging thing that’s happened in my life”.
She told The Guardian Weinstein had pushed her to her bed and was “tugging at her clothes”. She rushed to the bathroom to escape, but when she came out she found him “standing there masturbating”.
“I quickly closed the door again and locked it,” she said. “Then when I heard room service come to the door I just ran.”
The actor and director claims she had to fight off Weinstein after he brought her to his hotel room during what she remembers to be 2012.
“He suddenly jumped on me and tried to kiss me. I had to defend myself. He’s big and fat, so I had to be forceful to resist him. I left his room, thoroughly disgusted,” she wrote in The Guardian.
British actress Claire Forlani wrote on Twitter that she had evaded Weinstein’s advances on five occasions at the age of 25. At meetings with the Hollywood a-lister, she says “massage was suggested”, and that Weinstein had boasted of all the women he’d had sex with.
French actress Florence Darel claimed Weinstein relentlessly pursued her in the mid 1990’s and propositioned her while Eve Chilton, his wife at the time, was in the hotel room next door. “I was astonished,” she told People magazine. “When you have someone so physically disgusting in front of you, continuing and continuing as though this was all perfectly normal… What happened to me may not be illegal but it was inappropriate. Very inappropriate.”
Lysette Anthony, who starred as Marnie Nightingale in Hollyoaks, has claimed Weinstein raped her in the late 1980’s after turning up to her London home in the late 1980’s. She described the disgraced film producer’s alleged attack as “pathetic and revolting” and said it left her feeling “disgusted and embarrassed”.
Dunning said she met Weinstein in 2003 when she was 24-years-old and the disgraced film producer suggested she have a threesome with him and someone else. She told the New York Times Weinstein got angry when she refused.
“You’ll never make it in this business,” she said he told her as she left.
Rosanna Arquette was already well known for her role in Desperately Seeking Susan, when she said she met Weinstein at his hotel to pick up a script in the early nineties. Weinstein was dressed only in a dressing gown, and tried to put her hand on his erect penis. Speaking to the New York Times, Arquette said as she left she told him: “I will never be that girl.”
Emma de Caunes
Caunes, a French actor, claimed Weinstein took her to his hotel room in 2010 supposedly to retrieve a book he was making into a film, but once there he went into the bathroom. De Caunes said he then emerged naked, with an erection and told her to lie on the bed. She fled the room.
Model Zoe claimed that she had to lock herself in a bathroom at Weinstein’s hotel in 1997, after the mogul had sent all of the assistants out of the room, and then appeared naked.
“I was alone with Weinstein, she told ITV’s This Morning programme. “He very quickly left the room and came back naked. He chased me naked.”
Actress Jessica Barth described an encounter with Weinstein in 2011 in an interview with The New Yorker in which she said Weinstein veered between offering her roles in films and demanding a naked massage.
She alleges the producer said to her: “So, what would happen if, say, we’re having some champagne and I take my clothes off and you give me a massage?”
When she tried to leave, he then promised to give her the number of a female executive at the company. “He gave me her number, and I walked out and I started bawling,” Barth said.
The actress told The Guardian she felt “violated” after she went to a meeting with Weinstein at the age of 18 and he met her in his hotel room wearing nothing but a dressing gown.
Graham claimed that during a casting opportunity in the early 2000’s Weinstein had told her he had an open relationship with his wife. “He could sleep with whomever he wanted when he was out of town. I walked out of the meeting feeling uneasy,” Graham told Variety. “There was no explicit mention that to star in one of those films I had to sleep with him, but the subtext was there.” Graham was never hired to work in a Weinstein film.
Spaced and W1A star Jessica Hynes tweeted about an encounter with Weinstein earlier this week, but subsequently deleted the tweet.
The former actress said she met Weinstein to pitch a film script she was working on. During the meeting, Weinstein allegedly went out and reappeared naked and got into a jacuzzi where he masturbated in front of her and said he would make the script into a film if she stayed and watched.
Liza Campbell, a British writer and artist, alleged that “Olympically ugly” Weinstein asked her to join him in the bath and began getting undressed at a hotel. In a piece for The Times, Campbell claimed she was forced to sprint to the door to escape.
Writing in a blog post, Louise Godbold, a non-profit director in Los Angeles, said her encounter with Weinstein took the form of an “office tour that became an occasion to trap me in an empty meeting room. She said then Weinstein was “begging for a massage, his hands on my shoulders as I attempted to beat a retreat.”
Green issued a later statement to Variety, saying: “I met him for a business meeting in Paris at which he behaved inappropriately and I had to push him off.
She continued: “I got away without it going further, but the experience left me shocked and disgusted.”
Green said she chose not to discuss the alleged incident before because she was keen to maintain her privacy but has now been inspired by the chorus of women coming forward to accuse Weinstein. She applauded the “great bravery” of women for speaking out and argued it was important to come to terms with the fact this behaviour is pervasive and not simply linked to the entertainment industry.
“The exploitation of power is ubiquitous. This behaviour is unacceptable and needs to be eliminated,” she said.
Green had appeared in Sin City which the disgraced media mogul had been involved.
The Weinstein fallout erupted last week when The New York Times published an bombshell story about Weinstein’s numerous settlements with women and included Ashley Judd accusing Weinstein of sexual harassment. This was followed by a similarly explosive 10-month investigative piece in The New Yorker that included three women who accused him of rape.
More than 40 women have accused the Hollywood A-lister of sexual misconduct. He is now the subject of criminal investigations on both sides of the Atlantic and has been fired from his namesake company.
Weinstein denies any accusations of nonconsensual sex. His spokesperson said in a statement last week: “Any allegations of nonconsensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr Weinstein.”
A Victorian terrace house in Hackney that was the original inspiration behind the fictional location of EastEnders has been listed for sale for £1.1 million.
The unmodernised four-bedroom house with a basement and private garden is in east London’s Fassett Square, the ‘real’ location behind the BBC soap’s fictional Albert Square.
The owners of the house currently for sale were the original inspiration for Kathy’s Café, the caff taken over by Ian Beale in the mid-Eighties.
“The house has been in our family since I was born. My dad owned a café and they replicated that on the square,” said the current owner.
EastEnders’ creator Julia Smith was originally going to film on location but it was eventually decided to use Elstree Studios instead.
Nonetheless, the soap opera set is a pretty faithful recreation of the Hackney original. The 56 homes in Fassett Square are identical, right down to the measurements, to those built on the Albert Square set location.
Similarities between the two garden squares are less pronounced nowadays than they were when the series’ creators first discovered the Hackney square in 1985, given the rapid gentrification of Hackney in the 32 years since EastEnders was first broadcast.
Back then, the East End was deemed to be a perfect breeding ground for soap opera plots, with Smith describing the “problems of unemployment, bad housing and so on.”
In contrast, house prices in Hackney have risen 753 per cent in the past 20 years alone, according to research from Halifax, while Land Registry figures show the average sold house price in the E8 postcode is now £1,458,000.
“It’s in what is now a very affluent area, but back in the Eighties when EastEnders was created, it perhaps wasn’t the most desirable area and was a little rough round the edges,” said Simon Taylor, of Purplebricks, who are selling the property.
“Back then I’d guess the house would be worth somewhere in the region of £100,000 which shows just a how high the value is in London property these days.”
Fassett Square’s residents have returned the communal garden to its former Victorian glory with winding paths and island beds and lawns and it is now a must-visit during Open Garden Squares weekend.
It’s doubtful that the bench in Fassett Square has seen anything like as much drama as its television counterpart, although it still hosts street parties, barbecues and even weddings for residents.
There’s also no pub like the Queen Vic in the Hackney square, although there are several fashionable watering holes nearby, including the Spurstowe Arms, which has been frequented by Keira Knightley among other local celebs.
But, while Hackney may have gentrified beyond recognition, Fassett Square’s roots are still regularly commemorated, according to the vendor.
“They come to the square to celebrate every time there’s an anniversary or special event.”
Given the speed of his transformation it’s possible to badge David Warner as world cricket’s equivalent of the 60-minute makeover.
The first Australian since 1877 to make his international debut before playing a First Class match has been labelled many things in his career – the vast majority of which aren’t publishable on the pages of The Independent – but, increasingly and against all odds, Warner is rapidly becoming something of a statesman-like figure Down Under.
So, when he talks of this winter’s Ashes series being akin to ‘war’, it’s probably wise for England’s finest to pack their hard-hats before they board the plane at Heathrow.
England Ashes squad
Captain: Joe Root
England’s Mr Dependable will lead his side into an Ashes series for the first time, and while he has the experience of the series wins in 2013 and 2015, he also has the scars of the last trip Down Under.
Batsman: Alastair Cook
The former captain will be crucial to England’s hopes, with the Essex opener needing to find the same resilient form that he displayed in Australia in the 2010/11 series.
Batsman: Mark Stoneman
Cook’s likely opening partner will be Mark Stoneman after selectors decided to stick with him despite a nervous series against the West Indies.
Batsman/spinner: Dawid Malan
Malan showed glimpses of promise this summer and can also offer an option with the ball, but he is untested on the hard pitches of Australia and could be found out.
Batsman: Gary Ballance
Ballance is handed yet another chance to salvage his England career as the selectors hope he will eventually come good for their unyielding faith.
Batsman: James Vince
Vince is the surprise inclusion in the squad, having done little of note in county cricket since being dropped in 2016.
Batsman/spinner: Moeen Ali
Moeen Ali could easily go on to be man of the series given his ability to deliver fireworks with bat and ball. He may disagree, but he is undoubtedly England’s front line spinner.
Batsman/spinner: Mason Crane
Crane is yet to make his full debut, though took a wonderful catch against the West Indies as a substitute fielder and will head to Australia as a back-up leg-break spiner bowler.
Wicketkeeper: Ben Foakes
Foakes will head to Australia as a deputy for first-choice wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow.
Wicketkeeper: Jonny Bairstow
Another man who will need to produce runs to give England a chance of victory, with his ability in the mid-order giving the tourists a bite throughout the line-up.
All-rounder: Ben Stokes
Stokes is named in the side despite falling under a huge cloud after his arrest on a late night out in Bristol. His future as vice-captain looks very much in doubt.
All-rounder: Chris Woakes
Woakes will provide rest for the front-line bowlers and will also prove handy with the bat.
Bowler: Stuart Broad
Broad has long set his sights on this Ashes tour as he hopes to make up for the 2013/14 humiliation, and his opening partnership with James Anderson will set the tone for how England will cope out in Australia.
Bowler: James Anderson
England’s leading Test wicket-taker will be wrapped in cotton wool until the first Test, though he will have to deliver the goods in a country where swing can be hard to find.
Bowler: Jake Ball
Ball could prove to be England’s joke in the pack given his extra pace and bounce. Think Chris Tremlett a la 2010/11. It’s just a case of keeping him fit.
Bowler: Craig Overton
The third uncapped member of the squad, Overton has been rewarded for a solid season with Somerset.
It wasn’t so long ago that the pugnacious left-hander was throwing right handers in the small hours at the Walkabout bar in Birmingham.
This summer, though, he was the Australian team’s go-to man in ill-tempered negotiations over the players’ future contracts.
And when the Aussies needed someone to shed their natural attacking instincts of take one for the team in Bangladesh, Warner stood up to register the slowest, but potentially one of the most crucial, centuries of his Test career in a winning cause.
That 123 in Chittagong – which followed a similarly single-minded century in the second innings of the first Test in Dhaka, which Australia lost – was the 20th of his Test career.
That puts him ahead of the likes of Mark Taylor, Bill Lawry and Ian Chappell in the Aussies all-time list. It also reaffirmed the view that, along with Steve Smith, his wicket will be the one that England covert above the rest this winter.
It’s all a far cry from the days when Warner was labelled a one-trick pony at the start of a career that has now seen him score almost 6000 Test runs at an average touching 48.
“He’s a cricketer who failed the eye test and probably still would,” says Trent Woodhill, the Aussie batting coach who has worked extensively with Warner since 2007.
“He was around the scene (at NSW) but he was stuck in that traditional mould. Someone had run the eye test over him and then said that he would have to improve if he was ever going to play red ball cricket.
“When he first came through, Twenty20 was still seen as a joke. There was nothing new about cricket, everyone was looking for the new Glenn McGrath, the new Shane Warne, the new Mark Taylor. Then along comes this pocket rocket who was so strong and just gave it to the bowlers.
“He just came from outside the traditional sanctum of Australian cricket.”
Warner’s Sheffield Shield debut eventually came two months after his Australian T20 bow. He came in at number six for New South Wales against Western Australia and scored 42 in traditionally breezy style.
What wasn’t so rapid was his elevation to the Australia Test side, which came almost two years later against New Zealand at the Gabba in Brisbane.
There was widespread head-scratching at the length of time he had to wait, particularly in India, where Warner had already established himself as one of the Indian Premier League’s most outstanding imports.
“Virender Sehwag saw him and said he could be anything he wanted to be,” says Woodhill, who worked alongside both Warner and Sehwag at the Delhi Daredevils. “He said he needed to open the batting because it was where he could cause most damage.
“I suppose, at that time, David really illustrated the changing face of cricket. It just took others in Australia and the Channel Nine commentary box longer to see it.”
His first brush with an English audience wasn’t quite as successful, with his Joe Root altercation leading to a suspension from the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy and causing him to miss the opening two Tests of an Ashes series that ended in a humbling series defeat for the tourists.
That incident remains a significant black mark on his career but proved to be a vital catalyst in his transformation from sporting bad boy to ambassador. It might also act as a timely reminder of cricket’s potentially restorative potential to Ben Stokes, who faces an uncertain winter after events in Bristol last month.
“David is one of those guys who says things that others are afraid to say and that hasn’t changed,” says Woodhill. “In the past, he has been used as a pawn for some people to do the rough and tumble stuff that others weren’t prepared to do themselves.
“I think the incident in 2013 was one of the main catalysts in his career. David plays the game hard but he also plays the game fair. It’s an easy roller-coaster ride to fall off of but he reset himself. For me, David’s a great person who has always had a very generous heart.”
That generosity is unlikely to extend to cutting England any slack this winter but that won’t come as any surprise to the likes of Alastair Cook, Stuart Broad, Jimmy Anderson and Root – players who know just how unforgiving an Ashes series can be.
Warner believes it’s ‘war’ as soon as the sides step over the boundary rope at the Gabba on November 23.
Like the Aussie left-hander, England must show they have the stomach for the fight.
Venezuela’s opposition refused on Monday to recognize a surprise win for the ruling socialists in weekend regional elections, potentially rekindling protests and fresh foreign sanctions on the oil-rich country’s moribund economy.
The pro-government electoral board said President Nicolas Maduro’s candidates took 17 governorships, versus six for the opposition, in Sunday’s nationwide poll.
The socialists’ strong showing came amid devastating food shortages, triple-digit inflation, and a collapsing currency in the South American OPEC nation.
Polls suggested the opposition would easily win a majority.
Dismayed opposition leaders decried irregularities, called for street action on Monday, and demanded a full audit, but they did not offer any evidence of fraud.
“Neither Venezuelans nor the world will swallow this fiction,” said grave-faced opposition campaign chief Gerardo Blyde at a midnight news conference.
“We played by the rules with a democratic conscience … but this electoral system is not trustworthy.”
Critics called for the electoral board to release more detailed results, to cross-reference with opposition observers’ tallies. (http://www.cne.gob.ve/resultados_regionales2017/)
Dispirited about their chances of removing Maduro through protests or the ballot box, many Venezuelan opposition supporters now hope foreign pressure, such as sanctions, will hurt him.
The Trump administration has already imposed sanctions on Venezuelan officials, including Maduro.
In August, Washington imposed financial sanctions against Caracas in an effort to cut back funds for the already severely cash-strapped government.
The European Union could also take measures against Maduro, a former bus driver and foreign minister narrowly elected to replace the late leader Hugo Chavez in 2013.
At home it seems unlikely opposition supporters are willing to return to the streets after four months of grueling protests this year failed to pressure the government into holding an early presidential election, freeing jailed activists or accepting humanitarian aid.
At least 125 people died, while thousands were injured and arrested in violence that brought parts of Venezuela to a standstill as hooded youths battled security forces.
Sunday’s disputed result will further crush protesters’ hopes that the unpopular Maduro can be removed in next year’s presidential election, possibly worsening disputes over strategy in the perennially divided coalition.
Venezuelan bond prices inched down on Monday morning in a possible sign of investor pessimism.
“There’s no money, no food, no medicine, no security. Yet according to the government, everyone voted for them?” said a skeptical Gloria Torres, 56, once a staunch supporter of former President Hugo Chavez.
The opposition’s electoral setback could further speed a flow of emigrants to other Latin American countries, Spain, and the United States, as many Venezuelans now fear the long-running political crisis will drag on for years.
Flanked by his powerful wife, soldiers, and red-shirted party members, a buoyant Maduro appeared on state television late Sunday to celebrate victory and paint the opposition as sore losers.
“When they lose they cry fraud. When they win they shout ‘Down with Maduro,'” said Maduro, 54, ordering a full audit to demonstrate transparency.
The opposition pocketed governorships including in the turbulent Andean states of Merida and Tachira, the oil-producing region of Zulia, and the jungle-and-savannah state of Bolivar.
The government, which had controlled 20 of the 23 governorships, took states across Venezuela’s languid plains and steamy Caribbean coast.
It won back populous Miranda state, which includes part of capital Caracas, with an up-and-coming star of the Socialist Party, Hector Rodriguez.
It also won in Barinas, Chavez’ home state in Venezuela’s agricultural belt that government supporters regard as the ‘cradle of the revolution.’
“If the electoral council does not give clear numbers demonstrating this election was legitimate, it could further international isolation of Venezuela,” said David Smilde, a long-time Caracas-based sociologist.
“If the results are not convincing, this will make a presidential election in 2018 difficult,” he said, referring to opposition hopes to take power in the presidential vote scheduled for late next year.
In pictures: The crisis in Venezuela
A girl scavanges for food in the streets of Caracas
A man scavenges for food next to girls in the streets of Caracas. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is resisting opposition efforts to hold a vote on removing him from office. The opposition blames him for an economic crisis that has caused food shortages
Venezuelans line up to get the ‘Fatherland’s Card’ at Bolivar Square in Caracas
The mother of Venezuelan Rebecca Leon, who scavenges for food in the streets of Caracas, feeds her grandson at their house in Petare shantytown.
Venezuelan Rebecca Leon, who scavenges for food in the streets of Caracas, with her two-year-old son at her house in Petare shantytown
Members of a pro-government community organisation work in an expropriated bakery in Caracas. Supported by popular militiamen, Venezuelan government inspectors oversee bakeries as bread comes out of the oven, to undermine an alleged plot to induce scarcity of this staple food
Forensic police stand next to the body of a man outside a supermarket, where he died of a heart attack after waiting in a long line to buy food, in Caracas
Venezuelan opposition activists take part in a protest against the government of President Nicolas Maduro at the Francisco Fajardo highway in Caracas
National guard throws a tear gas canister during a rally against Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro’s government in Caracas, Venezuela
Opposition supporter shouts at a police officer during a rally against Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro’s government in Caracas
Opposition supporters clash with national guards during a rally against Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro’s government in Caracas
A boy wearing a t-shirt with the colours of the Venezuelan national flag, during a demonstration against President Nicolas Maduro’s government at Foreign Affairs Ministery, in Buenos Aires, Argentina
Protesters cover themselves from tear gas fired by the Venezuelan National Guard officers during a protest in Caracas
Opposition supporters clash with national guards during a rally against Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro’s government in Caracas
Venezuelan opposition activists take part in a protest -blocked by the National Guard- against the government of President Nicolas Maduro at the Francisco Fajardo highway in Caracas
A Venezuelan national guard reacts to the effect of pepper spray during a protest of opposition supporters against Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro’s government in Caracas
Opposition supporters holding a Venezuelan flag protest against Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro’s government during a rally in Caracas
Opposition supporters clash with riot police during a protest against Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro’s government in Caracas, Venezuela
Opposition supporters protest against Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro’s government during a rally in Caracas
Venezuela’s Supreme Court abandoned measures to seize power from the opposition-controlled legislature after the moves drew international condemnation and raised pressure on President Nicolas Maduro. The president of Venezuela’s National Assembly Julio Borges dismissed the court’s gesture and told reporters that nothing had changed and the coup continued
Venezuelans living in Peru and other protesters take part in a rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government, outside the Venezuela embassy in Lima, Peru
Venezuelans living in Peru and other protesters take part in a rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government, outside the Venezuela embassy in Lima, Peru
The opposition has cried fraud at some past votes, but has lacked substantial detailed evidence.
After a controversial vote in July for a pro-government legislative superbody, Reuters obtained a document showing irregularities in the reported results. Smartmatic, the U.K.-based company that provided the technology for the vote, said the results had been manipulated by at least 1 million ballots.
Authorities denied any wrongdoing.
The government does retain significant support in poorer, rural settings and Venezuela’s disorganized and elite-led opposition has struggled to capitalize on discontent over the economy.
Socialist candidates, invoking the popular Chavez at every rally, urged Venezuelans to vote against the opposition, whom they accuse of plotting a coup under the veneer of peaceful protest.
“I vote because I want peace, not terrorism,” said customs official Franquelsi Anciana, who cast a vote for the government candidate in the western city of Maracaibo.
You can usually tell when Bafta is hosting an actor from a fan-heavy show like Doctor Who, Sherlock or Game of Thrones as there will be a crowd of devotees – tipped off on social media, no doubt – clogging the pavement around the entrance on London’s Piccadilly. This evening it’s the arrival of Jon Snow that ‘s being anticipated, or rather Kit Harington, the 30-year-old British actor who plays Snow, the Bastard of Winterfell, in Game of Thrones. Harington’s in town to promote his latest venture, a three-part BBC1 drama about the Gunpowder Plot.
In Gunpowder, a three-parter written by Ronan Bennett (Top Boy, the Hamburg Cell) and created by Harington’s own fledgling production company, the actor plays his ancestor, Robert Catesby, the arch-Catholic conspirator in the 1605 plot to blow up the Protestant King James 1 during the State Opening of Parliament.
Catesby – and not Guy Fawkes – was the ringleader of the conspiracy that is commemorated each year on 5 November with bonfires and fireworks, and in the interests of historical accuracy, children collecting for rockets and Catherine-wheels, rather than calling out “Penny for the Guy” should be demanding “Penny for the Robert”.
“My mother’s maiden name is Catesby and my middle name is Catesby”, says Harington following a screening of the first episode. “The idea for this was spawned from a piece of family curiosity; it was always a kind of thing growing up …’you know you were related to the leader of the Gunpowder Plot?’ and all that.
“I didn’t actually know a lot about him. I think I knew more than some people about the Gunpowder Plot, but not a lot. It was only by doing some research into that I started to understand how these people worked.”
It was more than simple curiosity about his ancestry that led Harington to tackle the subject and to take his idea to the BBC. “Yes, there was a family connection but more it was the idea that this seemed like an idea ripe for doing”, he says. “I couldn’t really work out why it hadn’t been dramatised. It’s such a significant piece of typically English folklore and we mark it every year on 5 November and set off fireworks on bonfire night.”
Maybe it’s the very parochialism of the subject matter that has deterred filmmakers. American Liv Tyler, who co-stars as Catesby’s cousin, Anne Vaux, later tells me that she hadn’t really ever heard of the Gunpowder Plot, while a subject without obvious heroes was never going to appeal to Hollywood. There was a 1923 British silent movie, while some 80 years later, Jimmy McGovern wrote Gunpowder, Treason and Plot, with Michael Fassbender as Guy Fawkes. But that’s about it. “Most people know about Guy Fawkes now from V for Vendetta and the subsequent Anonymous masks during things like Occupy Wall Street”, says Harington.
Having taken their idea to Kudos, the production company behind Spooks, Life on Mars and much else, Harington was put in touch with the Northern Irish dramatist Ronan Bennett, who was in some ways ideal to take on this story. A former Republican sympathiser who, as an 18-year-old, had been wrongfully convicted of murdering an RUC officer, many years later Bennett stood trial in at the Old Bailey accused of leading a terrorist gang.
He was acquitted after having conducted his own defence but still spent 20 months on remand, some of it in solitary confinement. Bennett’s previous works for television include the controversial Rebel Heart about the Easter Uprising, and the Hamburg Cell, which imagined the lives of al-Qaeda suicide bombers.
“I think if you ask most people what they know about the gunpowder plot they’ll go ‘Guy Fawkes tried to blow up parliament…’ something like that”, says Bennett. “I actually have a PhD in history and it’s from this period, and I had actually forgotten – if I ever knew – about Catesby, and that Catesby was the real leader and mastermind of it.
“We think of the plot ending with the arrest of Guy Fawkes, – no spoilers here but there’s actually another dramatic episode. But the question for me was where does this come from? Why would someone do this?.”
Gunpowder begins with a 20-minute scene in which Catesby’s Warwickshire manor is raided while the household is illegally receiving mass from a Catholic priest (played by Top of the Lake’s Peter Mullan), and is followed by two graphically gruesome torture scenes, the like of which have probably never been seen on BBC1 on primetime Saturday night (although the Tom Hardy drama Taboo proved that this timeslot could carry stronger fare than Casualty).
The cast also includes Sherlock’s Mark Gatiss as James 1’s spymaster-in-chief Robert Cecil, while Shaun Dooley plays Cecil’s enforcer (Guy Fawkes himself, played by Downton Abbey’s Tom Cullen, is a peripheral character here as he was in the real plot). But if Robert Catesby is being returned to his rightful role of ringleader, how does Harington regard his ancestor?
“Before I got into this, I guess in some ways I might have been proud of him”, says the actor. “But if you look at who he is – he’s a widower, he doesn’t connect with his son, he is experiencing huge persecution and his money has been stripped from him… I think in some ways he’s on some kind of death wish and he draws some innocent people in with him into this plot. So I don’t have particularly fond feelings towards him.”
Even after playing him? What about actorly empathy? “The major change was that I felt desperately sorry for him after doing this. As you’ll see he’s a deeply sad man, who botched his one big thing”.
One of the ironies of Harington’s ancestry is that he is also directly related, through his father, to King Charles 11, grandson of the very monarch that Catseby had attempted to assassinate. His father David is a baronet, while his mother, Deborah Catesby, was a playwright who named her son Christopher after Christopher Marlowe (‘Kit’ is his nickname).
Despite the aristocratic background, Harington was educated at a state secondary school in Worcestershire, his early ambition to become a journalist diverted after seeing Ben Whishaw in Hamlet. After drama school he appeared in the acclaimed National Theatre production of War Horse and at the Royal Court in Laura Wade’s play about the Oxford University’s Bulingdon Club, Posh. But in 2011 came the role that would change his life – and bank balance.
Harington is reported to earn over $1 million an episode playing Jon Snow in Game of Thrones (one newspaper claimed it was as much as $2 million, once syndication payments and residuals are included), while the months filming in Ireland and Iceland also provided him with a wife: Rose Leslie, who played his flame-haired wilding love interest Ygritte.
Although Leslie was understandably reticent to speak about the relationship when I interviewed her last year (“If it’s something that should be private and very dear to your heart, you make an effort to keep it that way”, she told me), the couple’s engagement was recently made public via an announcement in the Times, while Harington went further in describing his proposal on The Jonathan Ross Show.
“I was going to string up some lights in some trees and do all the romantic stuff”, he told Ross. “But we were in the country and we were under this beautiful night sky and had a log fire burning and red wine and… I popped my question a bit early.”
Gunpowder was filmed during a hiatus between season seven of Game of Thrones and the final run of the HBO fantasy blockbuster, and fortunately Harington’s role as Robert Catesby didn’t require a radical change of image. “I think it fitted quite well with me not being able to cut my hair”, he says, while adding that filming Gunpowder in autumnal Yorkshire was almost home-from-home after six years on Game of Thrones: “Why I keep desiring to film in cold, muddy places on horses I have no idea”.
Other projects he’s fitted in around his long stints in Iceland and Ireland for Thrones haven’t been entirely successful, the 2016 western Brimstone being greeted with lukewarm reviews as was the HBO mockumentary about the so-called longest tennis match in history, 7 Days in Hell. It’s one reason he’s keen to produce his own material.
“We’re looking for that next thing now”, he says. “Gunpowder was a test to see whether I enjoyed doing it – and I did enjoy it very much. I think it’s something about knowing why decisions are made and being part of those decisions has given me great comfort in the end process… in watching it. I don’t know about acting and producing at the same time though; I found that tricky at times.”
Having performed with swords and horses for so long now, does he hanker after more modern roles. “I’m personally done now with the 1600s”, he agrees “So moving forward now – to London in the 1960s perhaps. Or at least something with guns.”
‘Gunpowder’ begins on BBC1 on Saturday 21 October at 9pm
Kylie Minogue says recording her new album has helped her come to terms with her break up.
The Australian pop star ended her engagement to actor Joshua Sasse back in February. The pair originally met on the set of US TV show Galavant during the summer of 2015, with Minogue confirming her engagement in February of last year.
“There’s a little bit of heartbreak, I would say,” Minogue told The Sun. “Mostly I try to reflect where I am. Definitely, in the last year, there’s been some of that but we bounce back. Most of it is super positive and inspiring, as a note to self as much as anything else. I’m feeling great right now.”
“It was cathartic,” she said of the recording process. “It was good. In the studio, it’s a slightly weird concept to be spending seven, eight, nine hours in a room with people sometimes you don’t know. If you’re working with good people it’s the perfect place to deal with stuff.”
The album was recorded in Nashville, so there’s a chance Minogue’s new outlook may have something of a country twang, much like Lady Gaga’s stripped back approach on Joanne.
“I went to Nashville for two weeks and that became the album. I did a lot of work on the album before that but Nashville had a profound effect on me. The songs are very storytelling and story-based. It was so great to do things a little bit differently,” she added.
She also promised live shows next year, with the first single off her album expected to drop in January.