Motor neurone disease-2018/01/17-UK

I’ve been punched by Martin Johnson, elbowed and stamped on but nothing compares to being told I had MND.

MND. I have taken some right old shots in my time – a punch from Martin Johnson, an elbow by Wade Dooley, a stamp by Marius Bosman which ended my Lions tour in 1997. But, let me tell you, nothing compared to that day nearly two years ago when my doctor uttered those three letters and told me I had Motor Neurone Disease. One of the questions I have been asked most frequently since is ‘has your outlook on life changed?’ Well, I can honestly say that it hasn’t. It has brought us closer together as a family and it has made buttoning up a shirt a damn sight more difficult, but in terms of the way I have tried to live my life nothing much has changed. I still wear horrendous tartan suits, tell even more horrendous jokes and enjoy the odd beer or two. I have never had time for regrets. I’ve always tried to say yes to everything. Do what you can today and then worry about tomorrow when it comes. This is a philosophy that goes back 27 years to when I was a lanky 19-year-old coming into a Scotland camp for the first time. I remember how nervous I was to make a good impression. We had a fitness test early the next morning so I was tucked up in bed at 10pm with a cup of cocoa. Then Gary Armstrong, the great scrum half who was my roommate, comes in and says, “Night out. Let’s go.” Of course, the fitness test was horrendous but it was worth it. There’s no such thing as a bad party. I don’t want to make light of MND, which is a cruel and horrific disease. Basically your brain signals can’t reach your muscles that causes them to waste away to the point of paralysis. It is a terminal disease with no cure and no timetable.

Doddie Weir in tartan suit

This time last year I was told that I would be in a wheelchair within 12 months, but I’ve been incredibly lucky. I know a boy who was diagnosed in April and was in a wheelchair by August. In my case, it has mainly affected the grip in my hands. Doing up buttons, as I mentioned, is a challenge. So is holding a pint glass. In the old days, I could carry four pints across a crowded bar without spilling a drop. At least I have got a readymade excuse to avoid getting a round in. Those inconveniences aside, it has not greatly affected my day to day to life. I still do everything I previously did. Farm life doesn’t allow you to feel sorry for yourself. Here we have got animals to feed, drains to sluice, fences to restore. I like to keep myself busy and I still work for Hutchinson’s sewage company. That brings you down to earth. A couple of days after I had this big fancy do thrown in my honour and I am cleaning up what you had for your tea. I first noticed the symptoms when I caught my hand on a door at home back in November 2015. It hurt a lot but that wasn’t too unusual. It became strange when I started to lose a bit of strength in that arm. I tried to shrug it off but then my skin started twitching. There is no single test to diagnose MND. It is effectively a process of elimination through dozens of tests. I had brain scans, blood tests and even a spinal tap, where a needle is inserted directly into your spine. Let me tell you that stings. This all happened over several months so you know full well what they are testing for and what it could be. By the time the diagnosis came, it wasn’t that much of a surprise but that didn’t lessen the impact. As it was just before Christmas, me and my good lady wife, Kathy, didn’t tell our boys, Hamish, Angus and Ben. My mum was also not doing very well at the time but she’s pulled through. We eventually told the boys last January. We didn’t try to sugarcoat it: we said this is what it is and this is what will happen. I am so proud of how they have dealt with it.

Doddie Weir holds rugby ball

Then came the decision of when to go public. We considered announcing it during the Six Nations but then one of the boys had exams. As a family we had always planned to follow the Lions to South Africa in 2021. I would still dearly love to go through with that but we had to accept that I may not get that opportunity. So we brought that plan forward four years and decided to put out the press release while we were in midair, which just so happened to be during MND week. When I switched my phone back on, I thought it was going to explode with the amount of messages I was receiving. Being the tight Scotsman that I am, I ended up taking the Sim card out to avoid being stung by an enormous phone bill. New Zealand was a fabulous experience. The five of us travelled around the country in a mobile home doing as many crazy things as we could. Bungee-jumping, white-water rafting – you name it, we did it. I also got to see the other side of the Lions experience and it was every bit as special as I was led to believe. Unlike a World Cup where fans are scattered all over a country, it was 40,000 people partying in one city after another. Being 11,000 miles away with my phone off, I was slightly inured to the reaction of my announcement. When I got back I was blown away by the volume of people who had got in touch and how many of them wanted to help. Their generosity can be really hard to take, even if it is Mrs Smith down the road donating £5. The other day a lorry driver donated £1,000. Why? I really don’t know. We set up a trust to take care of my family – who are and always been my main priority – but I also want to make a difference to MND while I am here so last November we launched the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation. We still know so little about MND. Doctors in this country are still administering the same drug to patients that they were 22 years ago. It is horrific what people are going through and the drugs companies are doing nothing to help because it is not financially sustainable. Surely there must be something that can slow its onset. I know the chances that they will discover a miracle cure in my lifetime are slim. This disease is a death sentence. There is no way around that. As a farmer, I deal with death all the time and have been touched by it personally. The daughter of a close friend of mine died at 33, going in for a routine operation. We lost my brother in law at the age of 54. He was a big character, a local farmer – very good with sheep. Him Upstairs must have thought: ‘I need someone who is good with sheep. Michael Dunn, you are coming up to see me.’

Doddie Weir with horses

About 20 years ago I had a bad car crash. The doors were ripped off, the roof was turned upside down and impaled into the headrest but I just walked away with a bruised hip. Him Up There didn’t need a rugby boy at the time. Now He is saying: ‘I’ve got an issue with this MND rubbish, I need you to go sort it out for me.’ When it is your time, it is your time. I hope to use this column to let you know how I get on with this mission. Hopefully it will raise awareness and some funds to combat this wicked disease. I will also write about what is going on in my life, both the good and bad stuff, although I guarantee the good will outweigh the bad. If I could give you one message it would be don’t put off the things you really want to do today. Don’t wait to do these things in 10-20 years’ time because you may not get there. I’ve had an unbelievable life. It is not over yet but when it is I know that I will have no regrets.

  • Doddie Weir will be writing a fortnightly column for Telegraph Sport on rugby and living with motor neurone disease
  • For more information on the Doddie Weir Foundation or to donate go to myname5doddie.co.uk

Royal gift-2018/01/17-UK

Meghan Markle receives first official Royal gift: an apron

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at Sandringham

Their relationship blossomed over home cooked meals, and Prince Harry popped the question over a roast chicken supper. What better way for Meghan Markle to be welcomed into the business of the Royal Family, then, than with her first official gift: an apron. Ms Markle has made her debut on the annual list of gifts received by members of the Royal Family, with an apron presented to the Duke of Cambridge to pass on by a member of the public. The Duke had been making a solo visit to Finland in November, while his brother and future sister-in-law celebrated their engagement in London. The gift list offers scant details on the present, noting just that it was from an “individual” and was received by the Duke “on behalf of HRH Prince Henry of Wales and Ms Meghan Markle”. It is the first time Ms Markle has been named on the audit, following an altogether more circumspect entry, in September, while Prince Harry was in Toronto for the Invictus Games. Then, as the couple were not engaged, Ms Markle spent the trip apart from the Prince in public, save for one appearance together at the tennis and a relaxed moment in a private box at the closing ceremony. Prince Harry’s list of gifts, however, records a set of his’n’hers accessories for the couple, presented by a wellwisher The Cambridge family on tour of Poland and Germanyand including: “Two jackets, two leather holdall bags, two leather belt-bags, two leather zipped pouches, two leather passport holders, four leather wristbands, two ice hockey pucks, two baseball caps, two t-shirts and two sports polo shirts.” Ms Markle, who has previously spoken about her love of vegan leather, has not yet been spotted in public with any of the gifts. Among presents received by other members of the Royal Family were armfuls of items for Prince George and Princess Charlotte, including 59 presents from their week-long visit to Poland and Germany. Even the Duchess of Cambridge’s third baby, due in April, was not left out, with the family taking home three “soft toy baby’s sleep aids” in preparation for the newborn. The Duke of Edinburgh was given several gifts he may be able to make use of in retirement, from a travel backgammon set by luxury brand Smythson and some whisky from his Duke of Edinburgh Award team. A bugle, presented The Queen and Duke of Edinburghby The Rifles, was also accepted. The Queen received glittery baubles for her Christmas tree, a purple fleece dog bed for her corgis and and the Union Flag from Major Tim Peake’s spacesuit. She was also given an ostrich egg decorated with Maasai beadwork as a 91st birthday present from the Kenyan president, a decoration containing Enigma machine paper from GCHQ, and copies of love letters between Queen Victoria’s granddaughter Princess Victoria Eugenie of Battenburg and King Alfonso XIII of Spain between 1905-6 from the Spanish Royal Family. In a long list of presents, Prince George and Princess Charlotte received 17 soft toys, two lollipops, three toy trains, a toy pram, three dresses, two pairs of socks and a dreamcatcher. Official gifts can be worn and used, but are not considered the personal property of the Royal recipient. The Royals do not pay tax on them, can eat any food they are given and pass perishable official gifts with a value less than £150 to charity or staff. Gifts cannot be sold or exchanged and eventually become part of the Royal Collection, which is held in trust by the Queen for her successors and the nation. The rules on official presents were tightened following the Peat inquiry in 2003 into the sale of royal gifts and the running of St James’s Palace.

This post is copied to page Royal Family UK-2018 and will be deleted from this blog at 24th January, 2018.

A310 to scrap heap?-2018/01/16-FR

Why is the world’s largest passenger plane facing the scrap heap?

Airbus has confirmed it is preparing to end production of the world’s largest passenger plane after receiving no new orders in two years. The A380 was launched to much fanfare in 2005 with commentators declaring it the future of aviation. But just 13 later, and with only 222 units delivered, the entire project is on the brink. Airbus says it must build at least six of the planes each year to keep the programme running, and had been banking on a new order in November from its biggest customer, Emirates. However, the Dubai carrier chose to purchase 40 Boeing 787 Dreamliners instead. Yesterday John Leahy, Airbus’s sales director, admitted that only Emirates could save the superjumbo. “We are still talking to Emirates, but honestly, they are probably the only one to have the ability right now… to take a minimum of six per year for a period of eight to 10 years,” he said.  “If we can’t work out a deal with Emirates there is no choice but to shut down the programme.” Emirates bought 50 A380s in 2013, but since then Airbus has only received one more order for the model, when Japan’s ANA bought three jets in January 2016.

What went wrong for the A380?

The jet has been widely praised by passengers for offering a smooth and comfortable flying experience, but the economics of operating it have proved off-putting for airlines. Simply put, every service needs to run at close to full capacity for carriers to make money. Airlines are instead opting to buy medium-sized planes, such as the Dreamliner, the A320neo, which launched in 2016, and the A350, introduced in 2015. Independent air transport consultant John Strickland told the Telegraph: “The A380 is a well regarded aircraft by airlines which operate it and by customers flying on it. Generally, however, twin-engine aircraft such as the Airbus A350 and the Boeing 777 reduce the financial risks involved with filling capacity and operating costs.” Last year Singapore Airlines, the A380’s first customer, started putting its superjumbos into storage, while in November an Irish aircraft leasing company said it was considering creating its own airline because it couldn’t find anyone to borrow its A380s.

Which airline owns the most A380s?

Emirates, by a long way. With a fleet of 100, it’s one of the few carriers able to get the maximum value out of the four-engine A380, and has made it the core of its long-haul fleet. Other airlines have ordered them in far smaller quantities: British Airways, for example, has 12 of them in its fleet of 270 aircraft.

How many orders are outstanding?

Production rate of the aircraft is falling fast, from 30 a year in 2014 to 15 in 2017, 12 this year, and eight next year. “We will deliver 12 aircraft as planned in 2018,” said Airbus’s chief operating officer Fabrice Bregier. “The challenge will be to maintain at least this level in the years to come.”

Can new markets save the A380?

Airbus had been hoping Chinese airlines would help revive the superjumbo. China will be the world’s biggest air travel market by 2022, according to the International Air Transport Association. But John Leahy’s comments this week would suggest these hopes are fading. Besides, China has spent the last decade developing its own plane manufacturer: Comac. Its first purpose is to reduce the reliance on Boeing and Airbus planes on China’s domestic air network – but the Far East’s rising super-power also has ambitions to take its investment in aviation beyond its borders.

What’s the next biggest passenger plane?

Hypothetically, should every single A380, capable of carrying 853 passengers in a single class, be grounded, the Boeing 747-800 would become the largest passenger aircraft in the world, capable of carrying 700 passengers in a single class.

But isn’t the 747 falling from favour?

Correct. Last month United waved goodbye to its final 747 with a farewell flight from San Francisco to Honolulu (recreating the route of its first 747 service in 1970). Not one US carrier now flies the iconic Boeing aircraft, which – after almost 50 years of tireless service – is gradually disappearing from our skies. Even it’s biggest customer, British Airways, is phasing it out of its fleet. It currently has 36 jumbo jets, according to the website Airfleets.net, but a further 34 have already been placed in storage and it has said the model will be gone from its hangars by 2024. Demand for the 747, which has been tweaked and upgraded many times since its first flight in 1969, has dried up. No new orders were received last year and it is expected that Boeing will be forced to call time on the jumbo jet before long. Since 1969 Boeing has produced more than 1,500 747s. But around two-thirds of these have now been scrapped, written off, or placed in storage at one of the world’s aircraft graveyards.

PLexit???-2018/01/16-PL

Poles in shock as PM carries out sweeping reshuffle ahead of EU showdown

A number of high-profile ministers in the Polish government have been sacked in a sweeping overhaul of the country’s cabinet seen as an attempt to reform the country’s international image left battered by a series of bruising conflicts with the EU. The ministers of foreign affairs, defence, health and agriculture were among those who lost their jobs in the shake-up, the extent of which caught many Poles by surprise. It also came just hours before Mateusz Morawiecki, the prime minister, was due to fly to Brussels to meet Jean Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, to discuss rule of law proceedings against Poland.

“This is a new government for a new and better Poland,” said Mr Morawiecki when announcing the changes. “For us the most important matter is to build a strong and safe Poland, both at its borders and within in borders.” Mr Morawiecki, an English-speaking ex-banker who only became prime minister last month, is also seen as part of a diplomatic offensive to enhance the country’s reputation. Poland has become the enfant terrible of the EU owing to numerous disputes between it and Brussels on matters such as rule of law, the environment and migration. The country became the first EU state to face the possible loss of voting rights after the EU triggered Article 7 owing to fears a government overhaul of the legal system threatened the independence of the judiciary. But despite the threats from the EU Warsaw appears happy to defy Brussels in its desire to put what it considers Poland’s interests first.  Yet the appointment of a new prime minister and Tuesday’s cabinet changes appear, in part, to be motivated by a desire to soften and lighten the tone of the Polish government abroad, although few expect its core message to change.

Among those to face the chop was Jan Szyszko, the agriculture minister. Mr Szyszko triggered an international scandal by overseeing increase in logging in the Bialowieza Forest, one of the last significant tracts of primeval lowland forest left in Europe. Despite the threat of financial penalties from the EU if the logging was not halted, and Mr Szyszko persisted with the policy. He will join Witold Waszczykowski, the former foreign minister, and ex-defence minister Antoni Macierewicz in the political long grass. Mr Waszczykowski had become known as gaffe-prone, while Mr Macierewicz, despite being a fierce ally of Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of the ruling Law and Justice party, had clashed with the Polish president over the appointment of army commanders. Political experts in Poland pointed out that by dismissing the three ministers, Mr Kaczynski had removed figures who had become focal points of opposition criticism. By cutting out apparent weaknesses in the government Mr Kaczynski may also have one eye on the next general election, due in 2019.

Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki poses with his cabinet after a sweeping reshuffle. A showdown with the EU is looming

Hyperloop-2018/01/16-US

High-speed Hyperloop project ready for key test in Nevada

Engineers will soon conduct a crucial test of a futuristic technology championed by entrepreneur Elon Musk that seeks to revolutionize transportation by sending passengers and cargo packed into pods through an intercity system of vacuum tubes. Hyperloop One, the Los-Angeles-based company developing the technology, is gearing up to send a 28-foot-long (8.5 meter-long) pod gliding across a set of tracks in a Gerelateerde afbeeldingtest run in Nevada in the next few weeks, spokeswoman Marcy Simon said. Hyperloop One is working to develop a technical vision proposed by Musk, the founder of rocket maker SpaceX and electric car company Tesla Motors. In 2013, he suggested sending pods with passengers through giant vacuum tubes between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Hyperloop aims to achieve speeds of 250 miles per hour (402 km per hour) in its upcoming phase of testing. As it gears up for that experiment, the company on Wednesday released the results from a May 12 test in the Nevada desert. A Hyperloop One sled on wheels for the first time coasted above a track using electromagnetic propulsion and magnetic levitation, Simon said. It levitated for 5.3 seconds in a vacuum-sealed tube and reached speeds of 70 mph (113 kph), the company said in a statement. By comparison, another test by Hyperloop One that made national headlines last year was done on an open-air track, not in the tube, a key to achieving high speeds. Backers of the project envision the pods reaching speeds of 750 mph (1,200 kph), but skeptics say the hyperloop idea faces real-world challenges ranging from obtaining construction permits to making turns at jet speed. Hyperloop One has raised $160 million in funding and has touted the technology’s potential as a rapid-transit option. “Hyperloop One will move people and things faster than at any other time in the world,” Shervin Pishevar, co-founder and executive chairman of Hyperloop One, said in a statement.

Gerelateerde afbeelding

 

Hyperloop-2018/01/15-UK

The space age Hyperloop sounds fun – but speed isn’t everything in travel, some-times it’s the journey itself

He’s at it again. Having promised us space tourism, and trains that run on time, the relentlessly optimistic Sir Richard Branson is now pledging to bring us another revolutionary form of travel: the Hyperloop One. In these futuristic pods – the brainchild of Tesla billionaire Elon Musk – passengers will hurtle through low-pressure tubes at speeds of up to 670mph. With Branson now in the driving seat, the plan is to launch the Virgin Hyperloop One in 2021.  This hyperloop would connect Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, enabling passengers to travel between the airports in as little as five minutes, seven to Stansted: no need for a third runway.  Another connecting London to Edinburgh would cut the four-and-a-half hour train journey to a mere 45 minutes. It sounds incredible. Travelling 100mph faster than a cruising Boeing 747, we will whip across counties in minutes. No need for torturous journeys by bus, train and tube to make – or miss – a plane connection. No more sweating and swearing on the M25. Greater London becomes an invisible irrelevance. Yet for all the time it saves, the Hyperloop will rob us of something too. High-speed travel may be efficient but it is deeply unromantic. Entering a metal tube in one place and emerging a short while later in another, where the climate, culture and landscape are entirely different is, as any long-haul air travellers knows, discombobulating and jarring.  In a normal train you can observe the scenery unfurl outside, the city fraying at the edges, the gaps between houses growing larger, until they become countryside. You observe the details that delineate county boundaries: redbrick and golf courses give way to brick-and-flint and fields, then to stone thatches and sheep. Your window becomes a gallery of Turner and Constable paintings flashing by. None of this will you witness as you hurtle in a pod, like a receipt whizzing through those pneumatic messaging tubes used by old-fashioned stores. You will enter it in the Home Counties and minutes later arrive in East Anglia. Imagine the culture shock! Or exchange London for Edinburgh in under an hour, missing out on hundreds of miles of breathtaking scenery. For what? To arrive feeling desiccated, exhausted, disoriented, if air travel is anything to go by. Our bodies were built for slower speeds. A century ago, even a ten-mile journey was an event. Neighbours sat beside each other in carts, or walked and talked on their way to market. Now that we travel more speedily we gain time but lose much else. Travelling on foot you get to know every nuance of the landscape and seasons: pregnant ewes and crocuses clustering herald spring. On buses and trains you get to know people on your route. As we spend our working days in airless offices, our leisure time in virtual worlds, even shared meals glued to our phones, staying in touch with the real world feels increasingly important. Some people have woken up to this and choose to walk for an hour rather than spend twenty minutes on the Tube. A friend’s father eschews air travel and travels by container ship: it’s cheap, sedate and he experiences several cultures and climates en route. Cruises are popular for similar reasons. Pods may sound like progress but I, for one, hope that they don’t take off.

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor hyperloop

2018: Buy gold-2018/01/14-UK

Why 2018 is the year to buy gold

Gold prices tend to rise after increases in interest rates, so 2018 could be the time to buy more of the precious metal. Typically, investors think that gold becomes less attractive as interest rates rise, as the income produced by other assets such as cash and bonds looks more attractive next to gold, which offers no yield. Central banks in Britain, America and Europe are expected to raise interest rates in 2018, leading some to expect it to be a poor year for gold investment. However, an analysis of market data shows that gold prices do not fall when rates rise: the theory is “a total fallacy”, according to Russ Mould, of AJ Bell, the investment shop. The graph shows that gold prices have actually increased after rises in interest rates from the US Federal Reserve, America’s central bank. “During the seven cycles of higher US interest rates the metal has on average gained 86pc between the first increase and the last – and gold is already up by 23pc since the first rise of this cycle, in December 2015,” Mr Mould said. Gold currently stands at $1,321 an ounce, having started last year at around $1,133. This is still far below its near-term peak of $1,837 in 2011.

Ned Naylor-Leyland, a fund manager at Old Mutual Global Investors, said gold was typically oversold in the run-up to the Federal Reserve’s increases in interest rates as investors became nervous, causing the price to fall. However, immediately after the rate rise the price normally rallies, he said. Mr Naylor-Leyland, who runs a gold fund, said the metal was currently priced for four interest rate rises this year and that if there were fewer, its price was likely to rise. “Fewer than four increases in the next 12 months and gold is very likely to rise; more than four it will probably fall. I sense that the former is more probable,” he added. “If there is a stock market fall of substance, or a ‘hot’ geopolitical event, one would reasonably expect one, two or even three of the possible rate rises to disappear from the curve very quickly.” This year is also expected to see higher inflation in America – and gold is often bought as protection against that environment. As gold is not pegged to a currency and cannot be produced at the whim of central banks, it is seen to be inflation-proof. Mr Mould said: “Gold is often seen as a hedge against inflation, or a store of value, and at the moment the ‘reflation’ trade is dominating financial markets, fuelled by hopes of an acceleration in global economic activity and Donald Trump’s recent tax cuts in particular.”

How to invest

Investors who want to put some cash into gold can do so directly, buying gold bullion from a broker. This is the purest way to get exposure to price changes in the metal, although investors may be nervous about storing and insuring their own gold bars, particularly in larger quantities. Another option is to buy a gold “tracker” fund, a low-cost investment that mirrors the price of gold. Mr Mould tipped ETFS Physical Gold, which is priced in US dollars and costs 0.39pc a year, or the DB Physical Gold GBP Hedged ETC (exchange-traded commodity), which is sterling-based and costs 0.69pc a year. Another option if you don’t want to buy gold directly is to invest in gold mining companies. While the gold price rose by 13pc last year in dollar terms, gold miners’ shares languished: the New York Stock Exchange’s Arca Gold Bugs Index, which includes 50 gold mining companies, rose by just 5pc last year. Among the options are two FTSE 100 companies, Randgold Resources and Fresnillo, which also has silver mines, as well as Centamin, which is in the FTSE 250 index. Mr Mould added: “The world’s biggest gold miners are listed in the US. They are Barrick Gold, Newmont Mining and Franco-Nevada. Next on the list is Australia’s Newcrest Mining. “Anyone researching gold diggers must run through a rigorous checklist to ensure that their selected miner is capable of benefiting if gold prices rise and weathering the storm if gold prices fall back again.” Funds that invest in a range of gold mining companies are also an option. Mr Mould tipped Smith & Williamson Global Gold & Resources, which has an annual charge of 0.72pc. Other options are BlackRock Gold & General, Investec Global Gold and Ruffer Gold.

 

Dear Graham Norton-2018/01/13-UK

 ‘I’m a straight guy – but I’ve fallen in love with my male best friend’

Dear Graham

My best friend and I have known each other for three years. We are extremely close and it feels like we have been friends forever. I have never been attracted to other men before, and I’ve always been pretty sure that I’m straight, but I’ve always felt differently about my best friend. We have the strangest conversations and do things together and act as if we were in a relationship. Every time he stays at mine I look at him when he falls asleep and just wish I could cuddle him – and he could be comfortable with that. I have had girlfriends and I know what being in love feels like, and this feels like love. He’s always acted the same way towards me, but in other ways he’s more “straight-acting” – football, video games, etc – than me. I know this does not determine sexuality but it has always been a barrier against my telling him about my feelings to see if he might share them. But I am worried that if I do this it could ruin our friendship. Any advice?

Dear Daniel

This is difficult for me to comment on because I don’t know at what stage of life you are in. Is this a school friend, are you at university or is this man a work colleague? I suppose the question you must ask yourself is: what do you want to happen? Imagine that you tell your friend that you love him, and he says he loves you too. He is happy to cuddle with you at night. What’s next? Do you want to kiss him? To walk down the road holding his hand? You must somehow try to figure out how much of this is a deep connection to one boy and how much might be the beginnings of a new sort of sexuality. A tiny thing like stroking his hair or holding him as he sleeps, opens up larger questions. In an ideal world the love you feel for your friend could remain pure – but it won’t take long before labels are applied. Tread carefully because grand declarations cannot be taken back and you don’t want your feelings to put a wedge between the two of you. Try talking about emotions and attraction with him. Test the water by asking him if he has ever had feelings towards a boy, or even what he thinks about the whole notion of two men being together. If he is as lovely as you say he can probably guess what you are hinting at and either let you down gently or confirm his feelings towards you. If he doesn’t take the bait then don’t be tempted to force the issue. Even boys who like sport and video games notice when someone’s eyes linger a fraction too long or a hug doesn’t want to end. Enjoy your friendship for what it is and maybe one day when you are both ready it could become something more. Try not to get stressed out and instead relish the secret you hold. Falling in love is always as painful as it is wonderful but avoiding it simply isn’t an option.

Graham Norton

Write: Dear Graham, The Daily Telegraph, 111 Buckingham Palace Road, London SW1W 0DT

Muslim trainee lawyer-2018/01/13-UK

Muslim trainee lawyer beat up girlfriend over fear pregnancy would be revealed

Muslim trainee solicitor beat up his girlfriend when she threatened to reveal to his friend that she was pregnant, a court has heard. Harris Imran, 24, had been “shunned” by his family after they found out about his mixed-race relationship and so he did not tell them his partner was pregnant. Having already by ostracised Harris Imran, who appeared at Teesside Magistrates' Court accused of common assaultby relatives, he was said to have been “terrified” his friend would also shun him if they became aware of the pregnancy too. His career in law may now be in tatters after he assaulted his girlfriend of three years over an argument that stemmed from a phone call. Teesside Magistrates’ Court heard that Mr Imran was called by a friend on December 21 but lied and told his partner it was from his grandmother. But when his girlfriend found out the truth, she threatened to message his friend and tell them that she was pregnant – causing Imran to “flip out.” Lynne Dalton, prosecuting, said the couple got into an argument after returning home from a family meal and he got her into a “head-lock and grabbed her by the throat.” She added: “She was 17 weeks pregnant at the time. “His girlfriend threatened to call his friend to tell them she was pregnant after the argument. “He was concerned the friend wouldn’t have been happy with the pregnancy because of his Muslim background.” She added that Mr Imran’s parents, who live in Dubai, told him he had “brought shame to his family and had disowned him” over his relationship with the woman, from Stockton. Mr Imran, who pleaded guilty to common assault, had previously worked in Newcastle as a paralegal and was due to begin a law practice course later this year. Callum Terry, defending, said: “He has recently finished a law degree and wanted to become a solicitor. “That route will be closed to him and he won’t be admitted as a solicitor which is a significant barrier to him moving forward.” He added that Mr Imran “flipped” after his girlfriend said she would make the call. It was something he “continues to regret” and was “extremely troubled” about what he did. He said: “The likelihood of him being at court in the future is non-existent.” Mr Imran, formerly of Stockton and who now lives in Leeds, was visibly upset as he was given a 12 month conditional discharge and ordered to pay £105 costs.

Assassination attempt-2018/01/13-NZ

Assassination attempt on the Queen was covered up by New Zealand government, ex-police officer claims

A failed assassination attempt on the Queen during a royal tour of New Zealand in 1981 was covered up to “avoid jeopardising” future royal visits, a former police officer has claimed. Nearly four decades on from the incident, Tom Lewis, an ex-Dunedin detective sergeant, has alleged that a troubled teenager shot at the Queen and came yards from hitting her. In an interview with the New Zealand website, Stuff, Mr Lewis claimed that Christopher John Lewis, then 17, fired at the Queen as she alighted her motorcade to greet a crowd gathered at the Otago Museum Reserve. However, Mr Lewis claims that the attempt on the Queen’s life was quickly covered up by police and the New Zealand Government, which feared that the near-miss would scupper any chance of her returning to the country. He added that, as the distinctive crack rang out around the area, police attempted to disguise the seriousness of the threat, telling British journalists present that the noise was a council sign falling over.

Christopher John Lewis, who shot at the Queen during the 1981 royal tour of New Zealand

When later questioned, the story was altered to suggest that the noise had been the result of somebody letting off firecrackers nearby. A story published by The Daily Telegraph the following day appears to support Mr Lewis’s claims, noting that a sound “like a firecracker” had gone off, but that the Queen had not seemed to notice. In fact, the reality of what had transpired became a tightly-guarded secret, with the New Zealand Government allegedly ordering that the original police statement be destroyed. “You will never get a true file on that,” Mr Lewis continued. “It was reactivated, regurgitated, bits pulled off it, other false bits put on. “The fact an attempted assassination of the Queen had taken place in New Zealand… it was too politically hot to handle. A police report published that year appears to verify the claims, noting: “The discharge of a firearm during the visit of Her Majesty the Queen serves to remind us all of the potential risks to royalty, particularly during public walks.” He also claimed that Lewis’s original statement given to police on his arrest was destroyed, and that officers were told not to charge him under orders from “up top”. In a draft autobiography later published after Christopher John Lewis’s death, the would-be assassin wrote that he was frequently visited by high-ranking Government officials and sworn to silence.

The Queen smiles as she meets the New Zealand public in 1981

“If I was ever to mention the events surrounding my interview or the organisation, or that I was in the building, or that I was shooting from it – that they would make sure I ‘suffered a fate worse that death’”, he wrote. Lewis was, however, charged and taken to court – but his alleged assassination attempt on the Queen was downgraded to possession of a firearm in a public place. He was jailed for three years, spending his last in a psychiatric ward, where in 1983, then seemingly obsessed with wiping out the royal family, he was found to be planning to murder Prince Charles. Released in 1984, he was placed on a watchlist but continued to commit a series of burglaries. In 1995, police discovered that he was mapping out a route of the Queen’s return visit to New Zealand and intervened. Two years later, while awaiting trial for the murder of a young mother and the kidnapping of her child, he committed suicide.