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Badger and the pick of the pops



badgerOVER the last couple of weeks, even by his own benighted standards, Badger has been a gloomy soul. However, readers, this week Badger resolved to strike an altogether lighter and less sombre note; with what is, admittedly, variable success.

As Badger was listening to the wireless the other day he slipped back into a time warp. There he was, Tony Blackburn, who sounded as gruesomely cheery as Badger remembered from his childhood. Tone was playing the top twenty selling singles from 1985. At that time it took significant sales to get into the top twenty, let alone the top ten, and it was not uncommon for singles to sell in the hundreds of thousands.

For those of Badger’s readers who are not familiar with the concept, a swift history lesson is in order. In a world before CD’s, and long before downloads, the purchase of seven inch disks of vinyl to be played on a Hi-fi turntable – or even, if one was lucky enough, a music centre. In fact, music centres gave one the option of just recording the top forty and adeptly editing out the disc jockey banter between records: particularly useful for avoiding Bruno Brookes.

Anyway, Badger digresses. There Badger was, back in 1985, with Tony Blackburn doing the top twenty-selling singles of the year.

1985: The year of The Smiths, The Cult, The Cure, The Style Council, Bruce Springsteen, Prince. Badger settled down for a treat.

Oh dear, readers, oh dearie, dearie, dearie me.

Badger listened aghast.

Apparently, when Morrisey sang the lyrics ‘the devil will find work for idle hands to do’, the thing the devil found for idle hands to do was to buy singles perpetrated by Jennifer Rush, Barbara Dickson & Elaine Paige, and Foreigner.

Asbestos-lunged American power-ballad diva, Jennifer Rush bellowed The Power of Love to five weeks at the top of the chart in October. As Badger discovered to his horror when researching this article – La Rush had recorded the UK’s best-selling single by a solo female artist until overtaken by something equally interminable by Whitney Houston several years later.

Memory, not the most reliable of mediums at the best of times, had somehow preserved for Badger the memory of Walls Come Tumbling Down, Between the Wars, and Close to Me, but erased Easy Lover, and the knuckle-whitening horror of Frankie.

Now, Badger is many things but he is no musical elitist. He can be found a-shuffling his paws along to tunes – if you excuse the pun – of any stripe. But the discovery of precisely what had been a hit when the world was young and green came as a mortifying surprise to Badger. 1985 was no golden age of popular music, it was an age right up there with the horror of times when young girls chanted for the Bay City Rollers or David Cassidy.

Readers, it was an age of Phil Collins.

Phil-bloody-Collins. I mean it is not as if Genesis was not quite bad enough, Phil had to distil its essence, cube it and record it. Those are not only musical crimes, readers: they are crimes against humanity. Phil Collins constitutes the final proof of the proposition that the only band in which the drummer was the most talented member was Nirvana.

And it came to Badger that much of the mid-80’s had been erased from Badger’s mind by a combination of Phil Collins and Margaret Thatcher. Shaken by the sheer awfulness of the period, musically and politically, Badger had expunged its recollection and retained only the memory of little shafts of light to illuminate the gloom.

On reflection, the whole period from, say, 1982 to the end of 1990 seems a little hazy. Not so much never glad confident morning again, as an abrupt break in cultural transmission that only picked up again a long time later. Lager and despair might have had something to do with that, readers.

But still Tony Blackburn endures: we are now past post-modern irony – way past Smashy and Nicey territory -and into the realms of complicity.

We know he is corny, we know he has hung around longer than a fart in a freezer, but Tony Blackburn is a reminder to us of a time when what went to the top of the charts had a certain cultural currency.

Popular music is less a sign of our times than a diary marker in our memories. If pressed to remember a specific day or month, you might fail. But people always remember what they were doing when they first became aware of a certain song, or a certain artist.

The old joke about innumerable progeny being conceived to the melodic rumbling of Barry White probably has a certain ring of truth about it; although in Pembrokeshire in the 1980’s, Badger is pretty sure that it was more likely to be to the strains of Hi Ho Silver Lining leeching through the windows of the village hall into a darkened car park at the end of a disco. Or possibly to the apparently endless long version of Freebird if you ventured out to The Old Rectory near Nash of fond Badgery memories.

The truth about the eighties, is that like Auden’s 1930’s, they were a low, dishonest decade. Their altitude and dishonesty is worse than some and better than others. (Don’t get Badger started on the 1970’s and the type of modern comedian who asks the audience whether it remembers Spangles.)

For all the gleaming newness of the now, and in the knowledge of its gloomier corners, the past still has its pull. Even now, even after Badger has discovered the unfortunate musical truth about 1985, his memory insists that for the portion of the year that Little Red Corvette was not number one, She Sells Sanctuary was in its stead.The thing about nostalgia, readers, is that nothing can kill it. Not even the truth.

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Buckingham palace announces Prince Philip’s funeral arrangements



PRINCE PHILIP’S royal ceremonial funeral will take place April 17 at Windsor Castle — a slimmed-down service amid the COVID-19 pandemic that will be entirely closed to the public.

Philip, also known as the Duke of Edinburgh, took part in planning his funeral and its focus on family was in accordance with his wishes. The 99-year-old duke, who died Friday, also took part in designing the modified Land Rover that will carry his coffin.

“Although the ceremonial arrangements are reduced, the occasion will still celebrate and recognize the duke’s life and his more than 70 years of service to the Queen, the UK and the Commonwealth,” a palace spokesman said Saturday while speaking on condition of anonymity in line with policy.

Prince Harry, Philip’s grandson who stepped away from royal duties last year and now lives in California, will attend the service along with other members of the royal family. His wife, the Duchess of Sussex, who is pregnant, has been advised by her doctor not to attend.

Palace officials said the ceremony would be conducted strictly in line with the British government’s COVID-19 guidelines, which restrict the number of people attending funerals to 30. They declined to say whether the royal family would be required to wear masks.

The palace appealed to the public not to gather in Windsor, and for those who wished to pay their respects to Philips to stay at home instead.

“While there is sadness that the public will not be able to physically be part of events to commemorate the life of the duke, the royal family asks that anyone wishing to express their condolences do so in the safest way possible and not by visiting Windsor or any other royal palaces to pay their respects,″ the palace spokesman said. “The family’s wish is very much that people continue to follow the guidelines to keep themselves and others safe.”

The announcement comes after military teams across the U.K. and on ships at sea fired 41-gun salutes Saturday to mark the death of Philip, honouring the former naval officer and husband of Queen Elizabeth II whom they considered one of their own.

Batteries in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast — the capitals of the four nations that make up the United Kingdom — as well as other cities around the U.K. and the Mediterranean outpost of Gibraltar fired the volleys at one-minute intervals beginning at midday. Ships including the HMS Montrose, a frigate patrolling the Persian Gulf, offered their own salutes.

“The Duke of Edinburgh served among us during the Second World War, and he remained devoted to the Royal Navy and the Armed Forces as a whole,” Gen. Nick Carter, chief of the defence staff, said in a statement. “A life well-lived. His Royal Highness leaves us with a legacy of indomitable spirit, steadfastness and an unshakeable sense of duty.”

Members of the Commonwealth, a group of 54 countries headed by the monarch, were also invited to honour Philip. The Australian Defence Force began its salute at 5 p.m. local time outside Parliament House in Canberra, and New Zealand planned to offer its own tribute on Sunday.

Philip joined the Royal Navy as a cadet in 1939 and once had a promising military career. In 1941, he was honoured for his service during the battle of Cape Mattapan off the coast of Greece, when his control of searchlights aboard the HMS Valiant allowed the battleship to pinpoint enemy vessels in the dark. Philip rose to the rank of commander before he retired from active duty.

Two years after the war ended, Philip married Elizabeth at Westminster Abbey when she was 21 and he was 26. Philip’s naval career came to an abrupt end when King George VI died in 1952 and his wife became queen.

At the queen’s coronation in 1953, Philip swore to be his wife’s “liege man of life and limb” and settled into a life supporting the monarch. The couple had four children — Charles, the heir to the throne, Anne, Andrew and Edward.

Before he retired from official duties in 2017, the prince carried out more than 22,000 solo public engagements and supported over 780 organizations, including the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award for young people.

Members of the public continued to honour Philip’s life of service on Saturday, leaving flowers outside Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle despite appeals from authorities and the royal family to refrain from gathering.

“I think everyone would like to pay their respects,” Maureen Field, 67, said outside Windsor Castle. “Because of the virus, a lot of people have to stay away. He didn’t want a big funeral. He wanted a very private time with his family to say their goodbyes. So, we’ve all got to respect that.”

Mike Williams, 50, travelled from his home in Surrey, southwest of London, to Buckingham Palace to honour the prince.

“He’s a massive loss to the country and to the world, I think, so we wanted to come and pay respects,” Williams said. “I don’t know what it achieves, but it just felt like the right thing to do.”

(Associated Press, London – by James Brooks and Tom Rayner)

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Police: RNLI ‘most likely saved man’s life’ following tombstoning incident



POLICE have issued an urgent warning following a tombstoning incident Tenby on Saturday evening (Apr 10).

A multi-agency operation was launched just after 6pm following reports of a man in difficulty after jumping from cliffs into the sea.

A spokesperson for Dyfed-Powys police told The Herald: “We were called to the beach opposite St Catherine’s Island at around 6.15pm today, where a man had got into difficulty after jumping off the cliff into the water.

“On the arrival of officers, RNLI were at the scene and were administering CPR to the 23-year-old who was unconscious and not breathing.

“Fortunately, he regained consciousness shortly after and was taken to hospital for assessment.

Inspector Gavin Howells added: “This incident highlights the serious danger posed by tombstoning or cliff jumping, and the potentially life-threatening consequences.

“We urge people not to take part in this sort of activity anywhere along our coastline, and not to put themselves or the emergency services at risk for a thrill.

“We would like to thank our colleagues at the RNLI for their swift response to this incident, and for their actions which most likely saved this man’s life.”

RNLI Tenby posted on Facebook the following: “The Georgina Taylor was launched after person seen in difficulty in water

“Tenby’s RNLI inshore lifeboat was launched at around 6.25pm on Saturday, following a report of somebody in difficulty in the sea off Castle Beach.

“The volunteer crew were quickly on scene and immediately saw the casualty, who had been pulled from the water and was on the rocks.

“The casualty was taken from the rocks and into the lifeboat, where Casualty Care was administered whilst the helmsman made best speed to the harbour.

“As the lifeboat was entering the harbour, an ambulance was arriving at the slipway.

“The crew then assisted the ambulance personnel in getting the casualty onto the stretcher and into the ambulance, before re-housing the lifeboat.

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Police and drugs advice service issue warning over ‘deadly batch’ of heroin



POLICE have asked the media to issue a warning over a batch of heroin.

The drug circulating in west Wales, first detected in Llanelli, is particularly dangerous, it has been confirmed.

“We are warning drug users to take extra care following reports of a particularly harmful batch of heroin circulating in the Llanelli area” said a Dyfed-Powys Police spokesperson.

“We have reasons to believe some drugs being distributed and used in the Carmarthenshire area at present have been contaminated with other substances and could be extremely dangerous for anyone taking them.

“We would also appeal to drug users to seek medical attention immediately if they become unwell.

“Please share this information with anyone you believe could come into contact with these drugs.

”In an emergency or if you think someone’s life is at risk always dial 999.”

Earlier this week Barod, the drug and alcohol abuse service reported a dangerous and toxic heroin circulating in Pembroke Dock which a spokesperson described as being ‘potentially deadly’.

To comes as Public Health England issued a formal alert about the risks of heroin containing fentanyl or carfentanyl.

The warning reads: “There is significant evidence from a small number of post-mortem results of recent drug user deaths and from police seizures that some heroin may contain fentanyl or carfentanyl added by dealers.

“These are highly potent synthetic opioids and very small amounts can cause severe or even fatal toxicity.

“Those of you in contact with heroin users should be alert to the increased possibility of overdose arising from heroin cut with these synthetic opioids, be able to recognise possible symptoms of overdose and respond appropriately.”

The fentanyls are a group of synthetic opioids; some have legitimate uses while others are illicit drugs.

Fentanyl is about 100 times more potent than morphine and is a licensed medicine used to treat severe and terminal pain. Carfentanyl is 4,000 – 10,000 times more potent than morphine and principally used as an animal tranquilliser.

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