Category Archives: Celebrity News

The Sun: Princess Eugenie’s wedding — ITV hosts Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford struggle to whip up enthusiasm

YOU wait for ages, then two royal weddings come along at once.

But this time there was no argument over the TV remote. The BBC and Sky turned down the chance to show it, leaving Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford on ITV’s This Morning to oversee the whole shebang.


It meant coverage was relaxed, which suited Eamonn and Ruth, who admitted they had no idea how to pronounce the bride’s name.

When we cut to Windsor, guests were thin on the ground. Just a smattering of overzealous royalists and tourists waving flags.

“It’s not the same as Meghan and Harry,” Eamonn was forced to admit.

As we waited for the couple to arrive, Alison Hammond was sent to interview superfans who had waited since 5am. Only they didn’t seem to know why. Asked what she loved about Eugenie and Jack, one royalist shrugged: “I don’t really know anything about them.”

Another, Anita Atkinson, 61, was a bit more fun and “really, really, really excited” about the wedding.

She then divulged a wee bit more than we wanted to know by confessing: “When you get to a certain age things happen, you know.”

Even the royal pundits ITV had wangled on struggled to convey much enthusiasm for the whole thing.

“Remember that she is a blood Princess,” one said.

“She’s ninth in line to the throne and Harry is only sixth, so there’s not a lot of difference,” another offered.

In an interview before the shindig, the couple promised Ruth and Eamonn a wave. But it didn’t happen.

A disappointed Eamonn wailed: “He promised us a wave, Ruth. He lied!”

The Sunday Times: Give me a lantern jaw, huge pecs and a beard transplant, doctor — all in time for Love Island

Summer means Love Island, which means weeks of ogling fit people searching for love, fame and sex — and then arguing about them on social media. The reality show, which starts again on ITV2 tomorrow, also provides a fresh excuse to debate the politics of young women’s bodies.

Last year one contestant, Megan Barton-Hanson, was reported to have spent £25,000 on plastic surgery. Critics picked apart her pneumatic looks and worried what impact her sculpted curves might have on other young women.

This year Love Island’s producers suggested they would bring in people with more diverse bodies. Their attempt at inclusivity has met with derision. The actor Jameela Jamil tweeted that producers must be “drunk” if they thought one girl with hips, Anna Vakili, counted as plus-sized.

Despite Love Island’s equal mix of male and female contestants, women’s bodies still get the most attention. But this obsession overlooks a significant shift in how young men relate to their bodies — particularly those who watch Love Island’s lads tanning their six-packs.

The look men are after is changing. No one wants to be a well-groomed metrosexual any more; they want to emulate hunky alpha men.


The Sunday Times – Thailand

Dark side of the full moon

Stephen Ashton went to Thailand’s Koh Pha Ngan to party — but his trip ended in tragedy. Has this ‘paradise’ island become too dangerous?

Katie Glass reports from Haad Rin Beach Published: 6 January 2013

Stephen Ashton. He shot dead in ThailandStephen Ashton, 22, was shot dead at a new year party in a bar in Thailand (Neil McAllister/Alamy)

Stephen Ashton spent the last night of his life in paradise. At least, it must have seemed that way. On the island of Pha Ngan in southern Thailand, he rented a beachside shack with two friends in a spot blooming with red hibiscus plants. Outside, a threadbare hammock swung under a canopy of coconut trees.

Pink’s Bungalows, hidden down a dusty track, are little more than a collection of knocked-together wooden sheds on stilts: basic one-room huts with no plumbing where geckos scamper up the walls and guests share lavatories and thin mattresses.

But at just £12 a night — and with a bar filled with ice-cold Singha beer — the simple shacks are heaven for the young backpackers who arrive on the island every year in their thousands from Britain and elsewhere.

The region is the setting for Alex Garland’s novel The Beach, which was made into a film starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Koh Pha Ngan is famous for its full-moon parties, which have transformed it over the past two decades from a hippy hotspot into a mecca for gap-year students desperate to experience the all-night gatherings where thousands dance on the sand until sunrise.

Pink’s near Ban Tai village on the southwest of the island, is just a short ride from Haad Rin beach — the main site of the parties. Here Ashton, 22, from Purley, south London, waited with his friends for the biggest event of the year: New Year’s Eve.

It ended in tragedy. Shortly after 4am on New Year’s Day, while Ashton danced at the Zoom bar surrounded by 300 others, an argument broke out between two groups of Thais and fighting began near the crowded bar.

One man began to walk away. He turned, pulling out a home-made gun and fired into the crowd. The bullet hit Ashton in the chest.

Chomchanook Kitirat, who works for a taxi firm, recalls seeing a group of four or five boys lifting their friend between them.

“They were carrying him. They were crying,” she said, stretching out her hands to show how Ashton’s body lay in their arms. She could not tell whether he was already dead. When he arrived at Bandon International hospital on the neighbouring island of Samui he could not be revived.

Full-moon parties began on Koh Pha Ngan in 1988 when a handful of travellers awed by the luminous yellow glow of the moon first gathered on the beach at Haad Rin.

Now full-moon parties, half-moon parties, black-moon parties, jungle parties and waterfall parties are held on the island almost every night, attracting as many as 30,000 people a time.

Websites such as promote an “unbelievably exhilarating experience you will never forget . . . no barriers, no inhibitions”. Ferries from mainland Thailand and Koh Samui carry a stream of twentysomethings with bare brown biceps and Celtic tattoos searching for hedonistic thrills.

As the full-moon scene has morphed from a hippy mecca to attract a Magaluf-style crowd of backpackers in neon shorts dancing to trance music in T-shirts that joke “Drugs saved my life”, so warnings to tourists have increased, too.

The Sunday Times – Gender Dysphoria


A boy’s own story

Lucy is on drugs to delay male puberty. For kids like her, the journey to adulthood can be a serious trauma, but is this the right way to help them?

Lizzie, Leeds (Tom Pilston)Lucy is among 12,500 people in Britain being treated for gender identity disorder (Tom Pilston)

Kathy and Jamie didn’t know if their first baby was going to be a boy or a girl. “We wanted a surprise,” Kathy tells me. They decorated the nursery in neutral colours, bought white Babygros, decided on two names — Amy or Thomas — and waited. Amy was born in Torbay hospital in December 1999. Sandy-brown hair, blue eyes. From the very first, she was a tomboy. She never wanted dolls; she played with toy cars, scooters or skateboards. She obsessed over Spiderman, not Barbie. She insisted on boys’ clothes and refused to wear dresses. “There were some gorgeous little outfits,” Kathy recalls, “I tried dressing her in them. I wanted my pretty little girl! But I realised quickly there was no point — she despised them.”

When Amy started school she asked for the boys’ uniform. In class she drew herself as a boy and called herself Charlie. Kathy wasn’t too worried. She’d been a tomboy herself. “Apart from this she’s never had any problems,” says Kathy. “You let your child be your child, don’t you? As long as they’re happy — and safe.” But then, when Amy was five, she turned to her mum and asked: “When is my willy going to grow?”

Kathy rearranges herself on the sofa and takes a deep breath. Around us, her friendly home in Torquay is heaving with colourful family mess. On the sideboard, family photos show what looks like two naughty boys. Kathy takes the baby pictures out.

Here is Amy, age three, wearing a white fairy dress, hair cut in a cute bob, scowling. And there she is at four in her dad’s trainers, grinning ear to ear. As Amy grew older her tastes grew more defined. By seven, she was decisive. “She explained she didn’t just want boyish clothes, she wanted boys’ clothes, including boys’ pants.” Kathy pauses. “She began insisting she was a boy.”

When Amy was five, she turned to her mum and asked: ‘When is my willy going to grow?’

Next to Kathy on the sofa is a cheeky-looking kid in a scruffy boys’ school uniform: grey flannel trousers, dirty white cuffs, lopsided tie. This is Amy. Now 11 years old, she is living as a boy called Charlie.

Gender dysphoria, or gender identity disorder (GID), is when someone believes their gender identity is not the same as their biological sex. Diagnosis of GID used to be pretty rare. In 1998 there were an estimated 4,000 cases. But a 2011 report by the Gender Identity Research and Education Society (Gires), funded by the Home Office, found that between 1998 and 2010 the total trebled to around 12,500, a growth of about 11% per annum.

Among children the growth was even more pronounced: 15% per annum. Between 2007-9, the growth rate of referrals for children was 68%.

If you were looking for a stereotypical boy you couldn’t do better than Charlie. He is a little shy at first, but friendly and bright. His favourite sport? Skateboarding. His favourite TV show? The Simpsons. His favourite instrument? Drums (he’s got a kit in his room). His ideal weekend would be spent playing Guitar Hero on his Nintendo DS. On Charlie’s bedroom door there’s a skull-and-crossbones poster that says: “No Trespassing Pirates Only”. Inside it looks like a boy cluster-bomb has gone off: every blue wall spattered with Bart Simpson posters; Rubik’s cubes, Dracula masks and toy guitars. There is a bunk bed with a Spiderman duvet, a bookshelf crammed with Marvel comics and Tintin books. I ask Charlie how he knows he’s not a girl. “I didn’t like wearing dresses,” he says. “I just didn’t want to be a girl at all, really.”

Charlie remembers the day he started infant school and Kathy insisted he wore a dress. He screws up his face. “I felt not so confident — I told my mum I don’t want to wear that dress any more.” He remembers the school disco, aged six: “Mum got me a white dress, and I was crying and crying. I had to wear it. I begged mum to let me wear a suit.”

“It was like putting a boy in drag,” says Kathy. So last September she agreed to let Charlie start big school as a boy. “I feel braver,” he grins. “Boys can be a bit braver than girls.” On the whole, his schoolmates have been very accepting.

As Kathy talks she occasionally slips pronouns, calling Charlie “she” instead of “he”, then picking herself up and apologising. “I spent a long time thinking he’d change his mind. I ask Charlie every day, ‘Are you sure?’ But Charlie has not wavered.”

As far as Charlie’s concerned he is a boy, and will grow up to be a man. But his body has other ideas. He turned 12 soon after we met, and puberty is waiting. Already his breasts are starting to bud, and periods are looming. “He cannot relate to his female body at all,” worries Kathy. “He’s in denial.”

The surgery involved in changing sex is not something Kathy and Charlie have discussed yet — she feels he’s still too young. But Kathy has considered it deeply and has made a difficult choice: in April Charlie will become one of only seven children in Britain who have been accepted so far on a groundbreaking trial at London’s Tavistock Clinic in which they will take drugs to delay puberty.

The Observer: Edinburgh Festival – 2006

No more local heroes?

Home-grown talent gets short-shrift at the Fringe

Within the first few days of this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe I had watched Polish identical twins perform underwater acrobatics, heard the tale of an eccentric Englishman trying to ‘cheese-roll’ his way towards a knighthood and witnessed the spectacle of a Norwegian squeezing his body through a tennis racket. But the thing that has shocked me most at this year’s Fringe is just how few Scots are performing.

International interest in the Fringe has grown to such an extent that Scottish companies seem under-represented. At the Pleasance only three of the 180 acts performing can claim any Scottish connection. Similarly, the Gilded Balloon, with a programme of almost 100 shows, has only three Scottish performers. Fairing slightly better, the Assembly claims that 12.5 per cent of its 100 shows are by Scottish companies.

It’s hard to gauge a true figure for the number of Scottish performers. At first glance, the figures look good: 691 of a total 1,800 acts claim Scottish residency. However, with numbers based on the location of the shows’ ‘group contact’, on closer examination, many of those claiming Scottish connections do so on a tenuous basis.

One of the problems facing Scottish performers wishing to take part in the Fringe is the Festival’s open-access policy itself. While, on the one hand, it enables anyone to join in, on the other, it fails to discriminate in favour of Scottish artists. As Paul Gudgin, director of the Fringe, points out: ‘We don’t particularly discriminate. If they are from Zimbabwe or if they’re from Morningside, we try to do the same.’

What Gudgin does feel is that Scottish performers suffer a lack of funding from arts bodies. ‘The sadness to me is that people who come from other countries or other parts of the UK are often more advantaged than Scottish performers. The Arts Council in the East of England is using Edinburgh in a strategic way to nurture artists. And there are other countries doing the same. They recognise the record of shows going from Edinburgh and ending up an international success. Just about the only place we are seeing none of this activity is Scotland.’

There’s a saying in Scotland, ‘They’re always good that’s lives far away’ – but isn’t it time they showed a little more confidence in what they’ve got at home?