Actress Julie Hesmondhalgh was only meant to work on Coronation Street for two months. Her character was intended as little more than a gimmick to help the Manchester-based soap opera compete in the ratings battle with then-dominant EastEnders. Fifteen years later, her character’s story has finally come to a close, and with it, one of soap’s most enduring and touching romances: that of oddball Roy and his kind-hearted wife, Hayley.
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Friday 16 December 2011
Christopher Hitchens made his name by making enemies.
Thursday 15 December 2011
The Christmas album still stutters on in mainstream America for the likes of Beyonce (who recorded one with Destiny’s Child) and Justin Bieber.
Thursday 15 December 2011
Unbelievers' billboards edge out nativity scenes after council allocates space in lottery draw
Saturday 03 December 2011
A Political Life
Sunday 13 November 2011
The Eagles of funk metal haven't noticed that their sound – and their puerile jokes – stopped being entertaining years ago
Monday 03 October 2011
In that ever widening Venn Diagram intersect where reality TV and occupational therapy meet, we meet Alastair Campbell – yet again. Fresh from "teaching politics" at Jamie Oliver's pretend school, Ali has signed up for First Love, a Sky Arts series in which celebs are coached to perform publicly on the favourite instrument from their youth. This is not what the smuttier among you may think (we leave the sub-Carry On muck to David Cameron, later in this column; Ali's status as top-ranked onanist will remain metaphorical). He will be tutored on his beloved bagpipes, which featured as an unlikely seduction tool in his Forum soft porn oeuvre long ago. The Sunday Times hints that he will play the pipes of peace at a gig on Bob Dylan's forthcoming UK tour. However, judging by the series producer's tactical deployment, in less than 45 characters, of the phrase "it's very early days", this theory bears the same relation to the truth as the dossier Ali in no way sexed up. If, as assumed, he ends up performing Flower of Scotland for mystified fellow Burnley fans during half time at Turf Moor, this is not to denigrate the project. It is essential that Ali is kept busy with harmless pursuits. If this is his outpatient's equivalent of weaving a pot plant holder from macramé in the high security ward support group, Sky Arts is to be applauded. Aren't acts of charity like this what the Big Society is all about?
Friday 19 August 2011
Abel and Cain have each made an offering to God. Abel's is accepted, Cain's rejected. In a fit of jealousy, Cain murders his brother. When God asks where Abel has got to, Cain replies tetchily, "Am I my brother's keeper?" God discovers the murder, and Cain is punished. He will live, but he will be forever marked, and condemned to wander the earth.
Monday 08 August 2011
At the end of his Fringe show Christ on a Bike last year, Richard Herring usurped the atheism of the majority of his audience when he asked them if they believed in one true love. That concluding flourish in turn has laid the foundation for this discourse, one that has a simple mission; "to destroy love".
Sunday 10 July 2011
Friday 01 July 2011
Our shelves groan with love. Out in the visual world, sex sells, but take down any novel, book of poetry or biography and it's clear that, on the page, love is most often the hook. As a magic word that all can use, but few define, its potency might be down to nothing more than the bewildering variety of experiences it covers, next to which the supposedly exotic range of options on the sexual menu seems staid. That this one word can be applied to romantic love, parental love, love between friends and love of God seems perverse, as if it is a deliberate semantic ploy to complicate and intensify our lives.
Friday 03 June 2011
'The Brothers Karamazov' has been my friend since I was 18 and first read David Magarshack's 1958 translation. Then as now it struck me as the grandest, richest and strangest of Dostoyevsky's four "big" novels. True, bookish teenagers can be overly partial to "sensitive murderers and soulful prostitutes" (Nabokov's high-nosed dismissal of Dostoyevsky), and there's no denying the delirious melodrama in these books. But having lived with 'Karamazov' for 20-odd years, I am certain Kafka judged it correctly in arguing that Dostoyevsky's characters are not all lunatics – just "incidentally mad", like the rest of us.
Friday 03 June 2011
Dystopian novels of faith, power and resistance crop up regularly. So the form can feel stale. Yet this assured, involving debut finds a new vehicle – although one that knows its own tradition – to explore this ground. In 1986, England has been a rigid theocracy for 35 years, ever since God "came down... like a cage". The church-burning Secular Movement was quashed; freethinkers expelled. Now, on a northern island, the tribe of the godless inhabit an atheist enclave. Sarah, from the pious mainland, arrives to seek her exiled mother. She meets Nathaniel, one of the zealots who hunt down "signs of churchliness". Wood sketches the back-story with crafty discretion, while a richly imagined setting allows the fable to flourish with the minimum of preaching.
Monday 23 May 2011
The world did not end on Saturday. The followers of the California evangelist Harold Camping were left dismayed. Others were jubilant. Atheists in North Carolina put on a rapture "after-party".
Saturday 07 May 2011
First the nuptials, then the killing. Don't tell me it was just coincidence.
Sunday 24 April 2011
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination
Migrants in Kos: Photos show real tragedy after Brits abroad complain of 'awkward' holidays
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
Michael Gove determined to scrap the Human Rights Act – even if Scotland retains it
Threat to scrap Human Rights Act could see UK follow Nazi example, warns UN official
Church of England 'one generation away from extinction' after dramatic loss of followers
- 1 California man brutally beat 82-year-old Sikh grandfather he mistook for 'one of those people'
- 3 Charles Kennedy 'had better judgement drunk than many sober politicians' says Ian Hislop
- 5 We have six months to save the world, says leading economist