Sunday 1 January
Having rejected a knighthood and other honours, David Hockney is appointed to the Order of Merit. Rupert Murdoch has joined Twitter (Wendy officially hasn’t) and Rowan Williams, the archbish of Canterbury, urges people not to give up on young people in the wake of the riots. The Association of Surfing Professionals is to introduce a rigorous drugs testing policy following cases that suggest a culture of drug taking within the upper reaches of the sport. In China there are concerns for the country’s archaeological heritage in light of numerous recent thefts from historic sites. Back home, the Freight Transport Association suggests that the canal network could be looking at a boom as environmental transportation requirements increase.

Monday 2 January
Research at the University of Paris suggests that professional violinists cannot tell the difference between a Stradivarius and a modern instrument in blind tests. UK music sales in all formats fell for the seventh year in a row and Elton John wants Justin Timberlake to play him in the film of his life, presumably on the grounds that the late Mickey Rooney has been ruled out. Tesco is furiously keen to point out that it is not withdrawing support for the London gay pride parade despite claims from conservative Christian organisations that it had. David Hockney reckons artists – and that means you, Damien Hirst – should create their own works without recourse to assistants. The British Museum will be holding an exhibition dedicated to the history of the horse and the Queen’s “best diamonds” will be on display at Buckingham Palace as part of the jubilee celebrations (sic). South Africa is apparently falling in love with British-style fish and chips, while in Berlin the FC Union football club is selling shares in its ground to fans as part of its redevelopment plans. BMX heroine Shanaze Reade reveals that her “head was swayed” in the run-up to the last Olympics. Former Liverpool and Everton player Gary Ablett dies aged 46.

Tuesday 3 January
The Costa book awards celebrates, among others, novel winner Pure by Andrew Miller and first novel winner Tiny Sunbirds Far Away by Christie Watson. The first translation into Norwegian for 30 years puts the Bible at the top of that nation’s best seller list. Liverpool FC dig themselves deeper into a racism-related hole of their own making with yet another statement in defence of the indefensible, vowing to continue its support for Luis Suarez. Cartoonist Ronald Searle dies at the age of 91.

Wednesday 4 January
Meryl Streep treads the highly inappropriate red carpet in London for the European premier of The Iron Lady, the Thatcher biopic. The Duchess of Cambridge adds the Scouts to her list of favoured organisations and apparently has been subjected to a criminal records bureau (CRB) check. Too good to be true: London 2012 admits that it has oversold tickets to the synchronised swimming (yes, the synchronised swimming) by some 10,000. London Zoo (or whatever name its rebranding experts advised it to adopt a little while ago) carries out its annual stocktake. Luis Suarez issues a modern apology, insofar as it is no apology at all. England rugby scrum-half Danny Care is dropped from the national squad having been arrested twice in three weeks for drink-driving. Sue Campbell, chair of UK Sport, calls for a long-term funding commitment to school sport if 2012 is to deliver any sort of youth legacy.

Thursday 5 January
The prime minister (still David Cameron) announces a government focus on ending a “health and safety culture”. A survey suggests that men worry about their body image more than women. The Scandinavian practice of ‘hutting’ – weekend retreats for city dwellers that involve little more than a simple hut – is catching on in Scotland. The National Maritime Museum will be holding an exhibition celebrating the river Thames and its royal connections. In Denver a woman is charged with attacking a work of art using only her buttocks as a weapon. Back in the UK one of the 50p coins celebrating London 2012 features an explanation of football’s offside law, an explanation which is deemed out of date by referees. Legendary photographer Eve Arnold dies at the age of 99.

Friday 6 January
Block C at Bletchley Park is listed Grade II. The resale of tickets for London 2012 comes a bit unstuck when the Ticketmaster website crashes. JD Sports is to buy Blacks Leisure. It seems Cav missed a scheduled drugs test in April because he was with the BBC on Mount Etna. Meanwhile Secretary Hunt makes no apology for spending £39 million on advertising the UK and its Olympic Games to countries around the world.

Saturday 7 January
Tessa Jowell says that the cuts to budgets for school sports threaten the Olympic legacy. A thinktank is suggesting that the working week in the UK be cut to 20 hours, while the Vermeer’s Women exhibition is bringing a record number of visitors to the Fitzwilliam in Cambridge. The RSC is to welcome amateur drama groups to Stratford this summer for expert help as part of the Open Stages initiative. Liverpool FC are now talking up their anti-racist credentials in the case of the fan on the Kop accused of abusing an Oldham player in a recent cup tie.

Sunday 8 January
Spielberg is in town for the premier of his film version of War Horse. Paul Deighton, chief exec of the Olympic Delivery Authority, reckons that many businesses across the UK have underestimated the potential impact of the London Games.

Monday 9 January
LOCOG formally take possession of the Olympic Park from the Olympic Delivery Authority.  Spielberg says he regards War Horse as his “first British film” while the Broadway theatre in Barking has its funding cut by Barking and Dagenham council, leaving the borough without a professional arts venue. Greenwich Leisure wins the bid to run the Olympic aquatics centre and the handball arena; maintenance of the Olympic Park will be carried out by Balfour Beatty on a ten-year contract. Secretary Hunt has also apparently found £1 billion over five years for a youth sport legacy, including £450 million via national governing bodies of sport and a sports club for every school. But meanwhile the London 2012 Ticketmaster site reselling Olympic tickets is still on the fritz. In Athens a Mondrian and a Picasso are stolen from Greece’s biggest state museum.

Tuesday 10 January
Ministers give the green light to the high-speed rail link between Birmingham and London despite vocal opposition. The British Museum displays a Roman cavalry helmet reconstructed from thousands of fragments in a project that has taken a team of conservators several years. The Manchester City manager criticises Liverpool’s reaction to the Suarez ‘debate’. Meanwhile the GB men’s gymnastics team qualifies for the London Games.

Wednesday 11 January
The prime minister’s father-in-law, Lord Astor, weighs in against the HS2 train plan. Research from the Children’s Society suggests that one in ten children in the UK are unhappy. There is disquiet within the open space sector as it is revealed that the National Trust had a shopping list for forestry sites that were to be sold off by the government and England Rugby’s new national team manager, Stuart Lancaster, announces his first squad, shipping in nine uncapped players and shipping out  a few old lags. Secretary Hunt says that public money may well be given to Premier League football clubs if they can address grassroots participation

Thursday 12 January
A Room for London, a houseboat marooned on the top of the Queen Elizabeth Hall at the Southbank in London, opens for business; the public can apply to spend a night in this habitable work of art-cum-architecture. Professional cricketer Mervyn Westfield, formerly a  bowler with Essex, admits in court accepting money to facilitate spot betting during a match; a custodial sentence is in the offing, according to the judge. Darlington FC and their huge white elephant of a stadium call in the administrators and things look bleak.

Friday 13 January
We’re now officially all in this together across the political spectrum: Ed Balls says the public sector cuts will have to stay for this parliament. There are overnight queues in London’s West End for the final few performances of Jerusalem starring Mark Rylance. Soho House, the company running private members’ clubs, is to expand into Asia and the Far East after a £250-million investment by a US billionaire. LOCOG says the London 2012 ticket resale system will be up and running again within a week.

Saturday 14 January
Plans for new coastal defences at Dungeness could ruin a unique part of the British seascapes, according to protestors. In the US the yoga industry is reacting furiously to a magazine article that claimed yoga was bad for your health; the US yoga market is worth some $5 billion a year. The cruise ship Costa Concordia sinks off the coast of Tuscany; lives are lost.

Sunday 15 January
Education secretary Michael Gove has apparently suggested in cabinet that the Queen’s diamond jubilee should not be overshadowed by the Olympic Games and that a grateful nation should mark the occasion by giving Her Majesty a new yacht at taxpayers’ expense. Staff at the National Gallery announce plans to strike over cuts that they say leave the gallery’s collection at risk of attack. Two giant pandas arrive in Paris courtesy of the nation of China.

Monday 16 January
It seems that Govey’s yacht idea has the backing of the PM and, less surprisingly, Prince Charles and Princess Anne. In Australia Tennis player Laura Robson excites some interest by wearing a rainbow hair band during a match rather than winning. Ian Rankin suggests tax breaks for new writers because publishers are cutting back on advances. Elizabeth Taylor’s art collection, including works by Van Gogh and Pissarro, are to be auctioned by Christies. A report by the Film Policy Review Panel, chaired by former culture secretary Lord Smith, reckons ITV and Sky should be putting more money into British film-making. Discussion regarding the merger between UK Sport and Sport England, scheduled to take place before London 2012, have involved such rancour that the process has been delayed until after the Games.

Tuesday 17 January
Remember Michael Gove? It seems his plan to send a copy of the King James Bible to every school in the country, presumably to mark the 401st anniversary of its publication, has come unstuck because he hasn’t been able to find private funding for the project but they have already been printed, so someone has paid for them; it is likely to have been us. Meanwhile in Afghanistan a calligrapher has completed the world’s biggest Qur’an, a task that took him five years. Some consultancy or other has warned of a “perfect storm” of traffic problems during the Olympics which will bring London to a halt; so business as normal then. The Catlin Guide 2012 names the country’s 40 most promising young artists to mark the start of the London Art Fair. The London 2012 tickets resale website is opening again but only for tickets to be returned.

Wednesday 18 January
Remember Donald Trump? Apparently The Donald’s dream of a £750-million golf resort on the Aberdeenshire coast is all but dashed and he is blaming an off-shore wind farm; nothing to do with vainglorious hubris in the face of a global recession, of course. The London assembly has approved the creation of a new organisation to take control of land around the Olympic park. George Lucas has made a  promise: no more Star Wars films. Darlington FC fans come up with fifty grand at the last minute to prevent administration and David Beckham, who probably makes that a day, is to stay in the US to continue playing for what we must call The Galaxy.

Thursday 19 January
Kodak, the company that has captured centuries of history (well, 1.3 centuries to be precise) goes into bankruptcy protection in the US. Remember the government’s so-called bonfire of the quangos that was going to save the taxpayer a massive amount of money that had been deemed wasteful? It has cost us £830 million to date, almost double the original projected cost, and the savings of £2.6 billion by 2014/15 haven’t materialised either; so top job all round then. Organisers of the Big Chill festival announce that this year’s event will not take place; their usual dates clash with the Olympics. In Egypt their tourist industry is suffering, having lost £2.5 billion in revenue as a result of a 32% drop in visitors since the revolution. Now the IMF is saying that governments’ austerity plans are threatening the economy even though it was their idea in the first place. Aston Villa say they might consider reintroducing standing if it were permitted.

Friday 20 January
Alain de Botton says museums need to serve our “inner needs”. In India readings from The Satanic Verses, still banned in the country, is threatening the future of India’s biggest book festival, according to organisers. World renowned freestyle skier Sarah Burke dies after an injury in training. Blues legend Etta James dies at the age of 73.

Saturday 21 January
It seems that astronomy is the latest ‘next big thing’, thanks in no small measure to the work of Dr Brian Cox and Dara O’Briain. Or perhaps it is David Hockney, whose latest show at the Royal Academy is selling tickets like an Olympics on one’s doorstep. Artists looking for commissions now have HiBrow, an online opportunity optimisation system. Meanwhile Matt Damon has stepped in to offer financial help to Dartmoor Zoo. Dutch sailor Laura Dekker becomes, at the age of 16, the youngest circumnavigator on record. HMRC are threatening to wind up Portsmouth FC – again – in light of unpaid PAYE to the tune of £1.6 million. Jerome Valcke, FIFA’s general secretary, makes light of plans to take a $200-million tax-free profit out of the Brazilian World Cup, up from the $63 million they made out of South Africa. Any questions?

Sunday 22 January
Ascot racecourse admits that putting orange labels on paying spectators in the premium enclosure to mark them out as inappropriately dressed (ie tieless) may have been a mistake; refunds all round. The story emerges that Prince Charles defended fox hunting to ministers as one of the only chances he gets to meet ordinary people in the pub. Fitness First, one of the world’s largest gym groups, admits that it is struggling to meet the interest charges on its loans.

Monday 23 January
The Southbank in London announces a year-long festival based on the book The Rest is Noise, which is about 20th-century classical music. A new play by Alan Bennett, titled People, will be performed for the first time at the National Theatre in October. At the V&A the spider-silk cape created by Simon Peers and Nicholas Godley goes on display. Clive ‘Sir Clive’ Woodward says that Stuart Lancaster has a lot to prove as England’s rugby coach, while John Steele, former RFU chief executive, is appointed to the post of chief executive of the Youth Sport Trust.

Tuesday 24 January
The UK’s national debt now totals more than £1 trillion and it seems that only bonuses for the rich and wage freezes for the poor, both of which apparently offer the respective groups the appropriate incentives to work harder, although mysteriously not vice versa, can possibly save us.  Pure by Andrew Miller wins the Costa book prize. Anyone turning up to the London Olympics with a baby will be expected to have booked a separate ticket for it, says London 2012. In the US Disney will soon allow employees to sport beards as long as they (the beards) are trimmed to less than a quarter of an inch.

Wednesday 25 January
For the second time in a year the Office of Fair Trading issues a warning to gym companies regarding the prevalence of unfair membership contracts. Sergei Polunin, the Royal Ballet’s youngest ever principal dancer, mysteriously quits the company. The White Cube gallery is among those exhibiting in Delhi at the first India Art Fair. A hedge fund manager is fined £7.2 million for insider dealing with regard to the fundraising by Punch Taverns in 2009. The Olympic cycling road race course will have more spectators on Box Hill following an agreement with the National Trust and West Ham are apparently still hoping to be the tenants at the Olympic stadium but they are now playing hard to get. UEFA says that it is serious about its ‘financial fair play’ rules and will defend them in court if necessary.

Thursday 26 January
BBC director general Mark Thompson says he is ready to leave his post after some eight years. In what must surely be a vision of an architectural oxymoron, Alain de Botton wants to see a temple to atheism built in London. Security firm G4S launches its search for 10,000 guards for the Olympics, saying that they will be working alongside the military during the Games. Meanwhile Victoria Pendleton launches a range of bikes for women in partnership with Halfords. Abba are to release a previously unreleased song for the first time in 18 years and an Equity survey suggests that gay actors see coming out as likely to affect the roles they are offered. The England and Wales Cricket Board have agreed a new six-year deal with the BBC for radio coverage of Test and county cricket. Plans are announced for a cycling version of the London marathon, a mass participation event to take tens of thousands of cyclists through central London on closed roads followed by a 100-mile race featuring elite and amateur riders.

Friday 27January
Some elements of the London 2012 opening ceremony are revealed, including a cast of 12,000, a cost of £27 million and a scene from The Tempest. Low-alcohol beers are surging in popularity following last year’s cut to duty. Anton Ferdinand, QPR centre half and the man who has accused John Terry of racial abuse, has received death threats.

Saturday 28 January
It seems that British artists are displaying a tendency to ditch the angst in order to offer feelgood works of art. Some survey or other reckons that cycling brings £3 billion into the UK economy and that 2012 will be the year of the bike. As you were with England’s cricket team: bowled out for 72 chasing 150-odd to lose the series against Pakistan amid scenes of general humiliation and ineptitude.

Sunday 29 January
Apparently the northern lights can be seen in the UK as far south as the Yorkshire Dales at the moment. English Heritage has purchased the Great Barn at Harmondsworth, which is near Heathrow and a Grade I-listed example of medieval building at its best. The Photographers’ Gallery in London announces that it will reopen in May after an extensive refit and general reinvention. Graham Henry, former rugby union coach of New Zealand and Wales, says England are world champions at wasting talent.

Monday 30 January
The Society of London Theatres say that the West End is in good health: total attendances dropped last year but the average number of people at each performance was up. Apparently there is a “growing appetite” for contemporary classical music, an itch that the BBC is preparing to scratch across all platforms. Peter Hendy, London’s transport commissioner, is confident the capital’s transport infrastructure will cope with the Olympics and it seems Jeremy ‘Secretary’ Hunt is now a qualified level-seven football referee. Portsmouth FC has had its bank accounts frozen, which may have something to do with the £1.6 million it owes HMRC.

Tuesday 31 January
In Germany, where he was enjoying some notoriety, Tongan winter sports star Bruno Banani is exposed as an elaborate marketing ploy; that his name was the same as a German underwear company might have been the first clue. Still in Germany, Formula One driver Adrian Sutil has been found guilty of GBH and is given an 18-month suspended sentence. Back home, it seems Spurs have been persuaded that redeveloping White Hart Lane is a good idea, thanks to the post-riot £18 million to be invested by the mayor and a further £9 million from Haringey council.

Wednesday 1 February
In the witness box at Southwark crown court Harry Redknapp’s defence against charges of tax evasion seem to rest on his admission that he’s a liar, which may yet prove to be a bit of legal chicanery too far. Conservators at the Prado have found a new Mona Lisa, thought to have been copied by one of Leonardo’s students while the master was painting one of the original versions. Almost as many people now listen to Radio 4’s Today programme (7.15 million) as to Radio 1’s Chris Moyles (7.24 million). The London-based auction house Christie’s reports a record year as investors turn to art in an age of financial uncertainty. In Cairo at least 73 people are killed in rioting at a match between Al-Ahly and Al-Masry; accusations regarding the collusion of government security forces are rife.



the world of leisure
January 2012

Monday 2 January:
UK music sales in all formats fell for the seventh year in a row and Elton John wants Justin Timberlake to play him in the film of his life, presumably on the grounds that the late Mickey Rooney has been ruled out.

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