Tuesday 1 April
The Forestry Commission warns that as many as half of the UK’s horse chestnut trees could be threatened by a bacterial disease. A study at the University of Hull suggests that too many road signs can distract drivers, causing accidents rather than preventing them. Street artists are to be invited to produce work for Tate Modern’s riverside façade this summer. Flood defences being constructed in the Venice lagoon are creating a new reef for fish and algae, prompting the city’s tourism department to add a new ‘scuba’ section to its promotional documents. FIFA is having to put aside £400m as surety against the 2010 South Africa world cup failing to take place. It seems potential insurers are not convinced that all the stadia will be ready in time and are consequently reluctant to provide cover fully comp. Shoaib Akhtar, the Rawalpindi Express, is banned from playing cricket for Pakistan for five years following his criticism of the Pakistani cricket authorities, a bizarre conclusion given his previous fines and bans for ball tampering, throwing things at the crowd and failing a drugs test.
Wednesday 2 April
Amnesty International publishes a report that claims China has used the Olympics as an excuse to crack down on dissidents. Only 17,000 items of Terminal Five baggage remain to be reunited with their owners; flying planes to, for example, Chicago, empty of bags or passengers is apparently helping. Owners of the Walker’s Sporting Icons store in Chester are convicted of passing off forged signatures. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the 89-year-old legend of Russian literature, has a dig at George Bush’s understanding of Ukrainian history in a newspaper article. Mark Foster qualifies for the GB Olympic team by winning the 50m freestyle trial at Sheffield’s Ponds Forge. He may help UK Sport reach their Beijing target of finishing eighth in the medals table, a target revealed by UK Sport’s chief exec, John Steele, to the Commons public accounts committee, which is pondering the £600m UK Sport budget in the run up to 2012.
Thursday 3 April
A national strategy for children’s play is published and Nacro says that the surge in youth offending is the result of police criminalising minor youth misdemeanours in order to meet government clear-up targets. Max Mosley steadfastly clings to his job as president of motor racing’s governing body, following continuing fall-out from revelations regarding his leisure activities and the calling of an FIA emergency meeting. The Chinese ambassador and the BBC’s deputy director, Mark Byford, say that they won’t be taking part in Sunday’s parading of the Olympic flame through London. The FA suggests that clubs could be docked points if their supporters indulge in a little light religious abuse from the terraces; they’ve got a five-point action plan. Mark Cavendish follows gold in the Worlds on the track with a victory on stage two of the ‘Trois Jours de Panne’ race in Belgium. In Turin police close the roads to enable the delivery of a flock of sheep which will graze two parks, saving, city officials say, 30,000 euros on gardeners’ fees.
Friday 4 April
The BBC is working on an adaptation of Emile Zola’s novel, The Ladies’ Paradise, setting it in Newcastle rather than the original Paris. Almost indistinguishable. Stories circulate regarding a former or current Premier League footballer who fixed elements of a match to settle gambling debts. Arsene Wenger says that whomever it is should be named and banned for live.
Saturday 5 April
The Olympic torch will be here tomorrow and Inspector Knacker of the Met warns “If people decide to act outside the law… they will be dealt with appropriately.” The Grand National goes off without a hitch. In the FA Cup Portsmouth have their achievement of reaching a Wembley final spoiled by having to play the semi-final there.
Sunday 6 April
The “journey of harmony” comes unstuck as soon at the torch gets on the pavement. Inspector Knacker cracks down on appropriate behaviour (the wearing of a ‘free Tibet’ t-shirt) with inappropriate behaviour (ordering the wearers of said t-shirt to remove them). The trip from Wembley (financial and project management disaster) to the Dome (financial and project management disaster) is made by foot and bus, all accompanied by sinister Chinese special forces operatives in what look like Manchester City tracksuits. Protests are registered, Blue Peter presenters are accosted and protesters are apprehended. Meanwhile, Glasto goes on sale and doesn’t sell out in minutes. Is the mud or is it Jay-Z on the line up? Cardiff City join Portsmouth in the FA Cup final.
Monday 7 April
Paris does not welcome the flame, repeating the protests of London despite the presence of Le Plod on Rollerblades. The IOC is said to be thinking of abandoning the Olympic torch relay, even as it heads off to San Francisco. London 2012 is thought to be furiously rethinking. Perhaps it could be replaced with the Olympic Friend Ship? David Hockney has gifted Bigger Trees near Warter, the biggest painting he has ever made, to the Tate. Harry’s Bar in Venice is offering a 20% discount to American visitors in light of the USA’s economic woes. A Chinese factory in which dietary supplements are made has apologised to the Greek weightlifting team, eleven of whom tested positive after using the supplements.
Tuesday 8 April
The cost of London 2012’s aquatic centre has trebled to £242m says the Olympic Delivery Authority.
Wednesday 9 April
The Olympic torch reaches San Francisco and spends most of its time either indoors or on a bus. Class. World short-course championships start in Manchester, accompanied by daily peak-time coverage on BBC2. Ten years after their last release, Bristol’s very own trip-hoppers, Portishead, are back with a new album and show-casing tracks at the Manchester Apollo. The success of the BBC’s iPlayer, which allows people to download the Beeb’s TV programmes, is threatening the internet, says Tiscali, among others. Some are suggesting that the Building for Schools programme is being watered down, with the Department for Children, Schools and Families suggesting the target to rebuild all schools by 2020 is now an “ambition”. Focus is now to be placed on the most needy schools in each local authority. This year’s Proms concert programme will include morris dancing and Doctor Who alongside Karlheinz Stockhausen.
Thursday 10 April
Relax. Wisden is published today. Meanwhile, the England and Wales Cricket Board is discussing what the hell they can do about the Indian Premier League Twenty20 competition, which is proving hugely interesting to everyone on the Subcontinent. It seems an American billionaire is planning to spend $300m on building a private getaway retreat spa-cum-conference centre in the Nevada desert to offer world leaders a place to meet and relax away from prying eyes. And it’s so handy for Vegas. Maria Saunders calls for tighter controls on sunbed salons after her thirteen-year-old son was severely burned while using sunbeds in an unstaffed sunbed shop. A study for the Journal of Music Education finds instruments divided along gender lines: harp 90% girls, tuba 77% boys. Ofcom warns that television broadcasting will have to change, while the BBC says that the licence fee is good value at twice the price. Germany’s state railway provokes protests when it says that the Train of Remembrance, a steam training carrying an exhibition of the deportation of 4,600 children by rail to their deaths during the war, cannot stop at Berlin’s central station. The steam would set off the smoke alarms and, er, there’s not enough room, they claim, somewhat unconvincingly. Cuba could be building up to ten golf courses, says the Cuban tourism minister and an Austrian man is going to the European Court of Justice for a ruling on his national airline’s definition of his tennis racquets as ‘potential weapons’. It seems that the chairman of Wembley National Stadium, Michael Jeffries, is to stand down. Following Marion Jones’s brush with the doping testers, her relay colleagues in the Sydney Olympics are to be asked to send their medals back.
Friday 11 April
A new museum dedicated to the history of journalism opens in Washington. They have spent $450m dollars on it and called it ‘The Newseum’. Music publishing icon Boosey and Hawkes is sold by its private equity owners for £126m. Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland have apparently agreed to stage a Four Nations football tournament from 2011. The English FA, of course, don’t want to play; they’re much too good for all that. Rob Hayles is cleared to return to racing following a run of normal blood tests following his raised haematocrit level just before the Worlds in Manchester (see World of Leisure passim). Princes William and Harry put the Isle of Wight right back on the tourist map by attending their cousin’s stag do.
Saturday 12 April
Don Foster, the Liberal Democrat culture spokesman, accuses the government of failing to deliver on its promises for children’s play. Only £17m of the £200m promised at the last election has been spent, he says. Lalit Modi, founder of the Indian Premier League that is throwing a spanner in the cricketing works, says that he would like to see a partnership with a similar English league. Swimming’s international governing body, FINA, approves the new Speedo swimsuits. In not entirely unrelated news, another three world records are broken at the world short-course championships at Manchester.
Sunday 13 April
Emily Eavis insists that Jay-Z is not about to pull out of the Glastonbury line up following the less than enthusiastic reception for his presence on the bill. Chinese ambassador to London, Fu Ying, warns that the protests around the Olympic torch relay could result in a backlash against the West within China. Trevor Immelman wins the Masters. Martin Lel and Irina Mikitenko win the men’s and women’s London Marathon. The world short-course championships ends with a total of eighteen new world records. More good news for British Cycling as Briton Andrew Fenn wins the junior Paris-Roubaix. A few hours later Belgian Tom Boonen takes the senior title in the Queen of the Classics.
Monday 14 April
Government plans to open another 30,000 university places in association with business are announced. Alan Davey, head of Arts Council England, tells the Manchester Guardian that he was surprised by the vehemence of the attacks on ACE following the recent funding round. “One of the things that shocked me about that was how little credit we had in the bank,” he said. A Scottish landowner is to reintroduce moose to his estate as part of a wildlife reserve for ancient Caledonian species. Local authorities have sold some three hundred primary school sites in the last ten years, according to Channel Four News. A truce has been declared among members of the Wagner family, who have been rowing about who should be in charge of the Bayreuth opera festival in Germany. Two nineteenth century rhino horns stolen from a South African museum could be poisonous, say museum curators. Beijing unveils its plans to combat air pollution for the Games: construction and heavy industry will stop in the weeks before the event. Eurostar reveals that 2.17m people have travelled on their trains this year. Just two decades too late to save football from the money men, Chelsea are critical of Sky’s demands on the fixture list following the first of their two games in four days. Meanwhile Rio Ferdinand signs a new contract worth £6m a year. German prosecutors are dropping charges against former Tour de France winner Jan Ullrich.
Tuesday 15 April
Having said that “the bucks stops with me” during the great Terminal Five fiasco, British Airways boss Willie Walsh maintains his reputation for integrity by sacking two of his senior staff just before the buck gets to his desk. The English National Opera company announces its new programme on the back of its recent season, which has seen 82% attendances and a £1m budget surplus. Tate Britain puts Burne-Jones’s The Sleep of Arthur on show, the first time the painting has been seen in Britain for over forty years. It’s on loan from the Museo de Arte de Ponce in Puerto Rico. Olympic Price Watch Division Two: the inquest into the death of Diana, Princess of Wales has cost £12.5m. Fabio Capello has hit on a new tactical plan for England footballing success: he’s told Wayne Rooney he needs to score more goals. The FA will back Cardiff representing England in Europe should they win the FA Cup next month.
Wednesday 16 April
Johan Cruyff clears up his non-appearance at the 1978 world cup finals. It seems that he and his family had been held by kidnappers and he decided to get off the fame train while he still could. Some 90,000 pages of Charles Darwin’s manuscripts are to be placed online by the Darwin Online project. Crimes against protected species are being downgraded by some Scottish police forces, according to a recent enquiry. Democratic primaries, game over: Bruce Springsteen has come out in support of Barak Obama. The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao has fired its finance director after he is accused of nicking €480,000 over the last ten years. Nationwide sporting retailer JJB Sports announces the closure of one in six of its stores with the loss of eight hundred jobs. Martin Johnson is appointed national team manager by the RFU, prompting Brian Ashton to seek legal advice following his dismissal as England’s head coach. Good news for British Cycling again: Mark Cavendish wins the 96th Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen, one of Belgium’s biggest one-day races. The 22-year-old Manxman nicks it on the line from Belgian hero Tom Boonen, who is too busy celebrating his own impending win to notice Cav belt past him in the last few yards. The DCMS will not be appointing a new chairman for Sport England until after the lottery review being conducted by chief exec Jennie Price. Clive Woodward, elite performance director at the British Olympic Association, has again employed Sherylle Calder, his visual awareness coach when in charge of the England rugby team. Andrew Flintoff takes a wicket.
Thursday 17 April
Danny Federici, a member of the E Street Band and one of the pillars of the Springsteen sound, dies from melanoma at the age of 58. London’s Southbank Centre announces a festival dedicated to Karlheinz Stockhausen, the mystic pioneer of musical electronica. The Institute of Education says that schools should provide quiet play and study areas for shy children. Dover magistrates find two men from Folkestone guilty of harassing a dolphin. Some US states are considering legislation to lower the legal drinking age to 18, primarily to allow returning soldiers to have a beer. The Indian Premier League hoopla of Twenty20 cricket finally kicks off with much shouting and a very quick 158no from Brendon McCullum. The ECB, the mystical rulers of cricket England and Wales, says that they’re going to have a Twenty20 league of their own.
Friday 18 April
A new history of the bagpipes suggests the famed instrument (of music or torture depending on your taste) was invented in the nineteenth century. The British music industry is collectively encouraging gig-goers to take public transport to cut down on the environmental impact of moshing. The first event to grace the Beijing Olympic stadium is an IAAF 20km walk.
Saturday 19 April
Joe Calzaghe continues the Welsh takeover of the world by taking a split decision against Bernard Hopkins in Las Vegas. Kinder Scout, site of the legendary mass trespass in 1932 and planned venue for The Leisure Review summer conference (see Row Z passim), is in danger of being a victim of its own popularity, says the National Trust.
Sunday 20 April
Massive Attack, whom every news outlet is contractually obliged to refer to as “the Bristol trip-hop pioneers”, will be curating this year’s Meltdown Festival at the Royal Festival Hall in June. It seems the Department of Health is considering restrictions on sunbed use by minors following recent stories of children using tanning equipment. Spanish ballet star Tamara Rojo says she has no plans to return to Spain from her home in London, attacking her native country’s attitude to culture. Nepal has authorised its police to shoot any protesters targeting the Olympic flame on its journey through the country next month. The record industry may well be suffering but the live music scene is booming, illustrated by record sums collected and distributed by the Performing Rights Society. In the first quarter of 2008 PRS sent out royalty cheques totalling £110m, an increase of more than a third in comparison with last year. Danica Patrick becomes the first woman to win an IndyCar race, taking the flag in Japan for her Andretti Green team.
Monday 21 April
Parliament’s public accounts committee publishes a report savaging the government’s budgets for the 2012 Games. The £4bn figure was, the committee says, unrealistic and ignored foreseeable costs, such as tax, security and contingency. The budget now stands at £9.3bn with the meter still running. Amy Winehouse is nominated for the Ivor Novello Awards in three categories. The V&A’s autumn exhibition will look at design during the Cold War and sales of vegetable seeds are reported to be up 60% on last year. Scottish ministers have knocked back plans to build an onshore wind farm in the Outer Hebrides on the grounds of damage that would be done to the habitats of rare and endangered birds. Culture secretary says that legislation to end the reselling of tickets for major sporting events would be a last resort but that the government really is taking a very dim view of this sort of thing. Bulls at Spain’s Feria de San Isidro bull-fighting festival are to be drug-tested following accusations of bulls being doped and docile to favour the matador.
Tuesday 22 April
Classing lap dancing clubs as part of the leisure industry rather than part of the sex industry has provided a loop hole which has been exploited across the country, says a report from campaign group Object. Groups supporting a free Tibet urges Coca Cola to use its influence as an Olympic sponsor to avoid a “humanitarian disaster”. Peter Bazalgette, the TV executive that brought us Big Brother, suggests that the public interest would be served by selling off Channel Four and Radios One and Two to fund public arts facilities. The Scottish Assembly government is to contribute £550m to the £842m Southern Hospital project in Glasgow. This will be the largest hospital project in the UK built without recourse to PFI. A urine test clears British cyclist Rob Hayles following his pre-Worlds haematocrit problem.
Wednesday 23 April
It seems that Snoop Dogg may be owed an apology from HMG. His visa application was refused after a fracas at Heathrow last year but it seems that video evidence shows Snoop entertaining small children and complying with police requests. The Children’s Society says that one in four children are depressed. Channel 4 crowned its scandal-hit 2007 performance by doubling its chief exec’s salary to £1.2m. Phil Hale’s portrait of Tony Blair, commissioned by Parliamentary portrait committee, is revealed, showing the then PM looking “knackered and fed up” according to one critic.
Thursday 24 April
St Martin-in-the-Fields, the church designed by James Gibbs which sits at the north-west corner of Trafalgar Square, reopens after an extensive renovation of its undercroft, including a public gallery that serves as an underground piazza. The body of Italian saint Padre Pio has been exhumed forty years after his death and put on display in the crypt of San Giovanni Rotondo. More than a million people are expected to visit it before September 2009, when it will be returned to its resting place. Cheerleaders working at the Indian Premier League cricket games are causing disquiet among some sections of Indian society and are themselves complaining of lewd behaviour towards them. Reports suggest that Wembley National Stadium Limited’s accounts will show a £20m loss for the first year of trading, with a pre-tax loss closer to £40m. Ken Livingstone, still London’s mayor for the moment, admits he knew that the 2012 budget was too low but recognised the opportunity for massive investment in East London. The International Cricket Council will hold its annual conference away from Lord’s for the first time in almost a century of meetings as a result of visa difficulties relating to the chairman of Zimbabwe Cricket, Peter Chingoka.
Friday 25 April
Aberdeen University’s school of medical sciences confirms that it has been approached by at least one Premier League football club asking about gene testing for its players. Legal matters include another arrest for Amy Winehouse (assault allegations this time) and a ruling that the carrying of a police truncheon by a stripper on his way to work does not count as an offensive weapon. Grumblings from some who have bought expensive property in Dubai; it seems not all is as they think it should be in the new post-oil tourism heaven that Dubai is seeking to create. A report from the New Philanthropy Capital organisation shows that a Devon donkey sanctuary received £20m in donations last year. A new campaign titled ‘Private Giving for the Public Good’ is launched by museum directors and Arts Council England to encourage philanthropy; if you’re rich it will make you happy, they suggest. As the ICC prepares for its meeting in Dubai, it announces the exit of its chief executive Malcolm Speed. Meanwhile the England and Wales Cricket Board has agreed a £75m deal with Sir Allen Stanford (“Texan billionaire”) for two international Twenty20 tournaments. Humphrey Lyttleton, jazz musician and Radio 4 stalwart, dies at the age of 86.
Saturday 26 April
Gateshead Council are providing guided tours and creating a photographic record of the famous multi-storey car park, which is set to come down very soon. There are warnings that the Russian visa system will not be able to handle the visa applications from English fans wanting to go to Moscow for the Champions League final. Chelsea beat Manchester United in the league and to no one’s surprise Sir Alex isn’t happy with the referee, the linesman and everyone else not wearing a red shirt. Then, in a notable contrast to a long-running theme in the history of Chelsea FC, there’s a punch-up on the pitch after everyone in the stands has gone home.
Sunday 27 April
It seems racehorse breeders are taking legal action to contest a decision to create a stacking zone for aircraft over Newmarket, which, they say, could destroy the multi-million-pound horse racing industry. A sculpture by Sir Anthony Caro, titled Millbank Steps and gifted to the nation by the artist for public display, has been knocked back by Westminster City Council. The National Trust says it will not support the planned cull of badgers being piloted in Wales. The scale of Lewis Hamilton’s domination of Formula One, off the track if not on it, is illustrated by reports of his team mate, Heikki Kovalainen, crashing at 145mph leading with Hamilton’s reaction to the crash rather than Kovalainen’s. Dwain Chambers turns out for Castleford reserves. Novak Djokovic, Australian Open champion, says that British tennis players don’t have the hunger for success because they have “everything on a plate”. The Love Music Hate Racism music festival is staged at London’s Victoria Park thirty years after the original Rock Against Racism gig.
Monday 28 April
Desmond Tutu urges world leaders to stay away from the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony. “Let us make China know this is a moral universe,” he says. Leisure retail giant Whitbread is planning to double the size of its Costa coffee chain to 2,000 outlets and expand its Premier Inn hotel chain, creating an estimated 21,000 jobs and some profits. The Royal and Ancient has decided that it won’t after all be drug-testing players at this year’s Open Championship; the American and European golf tours will start routine testing in July. Darrell Hair, umpiring controversialist de nos jours, will stand in the second England v New Zealand test at Old Trafford.
Tuesday 29 April
Grand Theft Auto IV, one of the world’s most successful video games, leaving Hollywood moguls fearful that it could impact upon summer film takings. Glastonbury panic over: the full line-up announced today includes Shakin’ Stevens. He’ll blow The Hold Steady off the stage. Eurotunnel announces a £700m cash call. With one hundred days to go before the Beijing Games, there is one man, Sun Yonglian, still refusing to leave his house to allow one of the city’s final remodelling projects to be completed. Paintings from Chequers, the prime ministerial country retreat, will go on public display in June but at another mansion, Compton Verney in Warwickshire. Manchester United beat Barcelona and are off to Moscow. Meanwhile it seems that Sven is going to get the boot from City whatever happens. The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club say that their tournament at Wimbledon will stick to its traditional thirteen-day format despite continuing concerns about the impact of the weather on the schedule..
Wednesday 30 April
The culture, medial and sport select committee publishes a report criticising the Olympic Delivery Authority for laughable financial controls and a willingness to “spend money like water”. The Russian embassy in London says that it will process visa applications as quickly as possible but it is still upset about the visa restrictions on Russians travelling to the UK following the murder of Alexander Litvinenko in 2006. Chris Jordan, whose daughter, Emily, died in a riverboarding accident in New Zealand yesterday, calls for companies offering dangerous sports to review their attitudes to danger. Research from America suggests that living on tree-lined streets could reduce asthma among children. Donald “The Donald” Trump announces that he will be giving evidence to the public enquiry into his planned golf development in Scotland. It starts in June so it shouldn’t be too windy. Rome’s new mayor, Gianni Alemanno, says he will tear down the Ara Pacis museum, designed by architect American Richard Meier and opened in 2006. The building’s modernist lines did not win universal critical acclaim in the City of the Seven Hills that isn’t Sheffield, with some at the time of its opening referring to the museum as “an indecent cesspit”. Then Chelsea only go and beat Liverpool, presenting the prospect of 40,000 visa applications for hard-pressed Russian embassy staff. Sven won’t be able to help out: although he knows he’ll be kicked out of his job at the end of the season his chairman still expects him to lead the end-of-season tour to Thailand.
the world of leisure
Wednesday 2 April:
Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the 89-year-old legend of Russian literature, has a dig at George Bush’s understanding of Ukrainian history in a newspaper article.
Monday 7 April
Paris does not welcome the flame, repeating the protests of London despite the presence of Le Plod on Rollerblades. The IOC is said to be thinking of abandoning the Olympic torch relay, even as it heads of San Francisco.
Thursday 10 April:
Germany’s state railway provokes protests when it says that the Train of Remembrance, a steam training carrying an exhibition of the deportation of 4,600 children by rail to their deaths during the war, cannot stop at Berlin’s central station. The steam would set of the smoke alarms and, er, there’s not enough room, they claim, somewhat unconvincingly.
Wednesday 16 April:
Martin Johnson is appointed national team manager by the RFU, prompting Brian Ashton to seek legal advice following his dismissal as England’s head coach.
Thursday 17 April:
The Institute of Education says that schools should provide quiet play and study areas for shy children. Dover magistrates find two men from Folkestone guilty of harassing a dolphin.
Monday 21 April:
Parliament’s public accounts committee publishes a report savaging the government’s budgets for the 2012 Games. The £4bn figure was, the committee says, unrealistic and ignored foreseeable costs, such as tax, security and contingency. The budget now stands at £9.3bn with the meter still running.
Wednesday 23 April:
Phil Hale’s portrait of Tony Blair, commissioned by Parliamentary portrait committee, is revealed, showing the then PM looking “knackered and fed up” according to one critic.
Sunday 27 April:
The Love Music Hate Racism music festival is staged at London’s Victoria Park thirty years after the original Rock Against Racism gig.
Tuesday 29 April:
Glastonbury panic over: the full line-up announced today includes Shakin’ Stevens. He’ll blow The Hold Steady off the stage.
Wednesday 30 April:
Donald “The Donald” Trump announces that he will be giving evidence to the public enquiry into his planned golf development in Scotland. It starts in June so it shouldn’t be too windy.