Paxman bashes BBC bosses in email

The <em>Newsnight</em> host celebrates the demise of the show’s promotional email with a poke at the

Jeremy Paxman is no shrinking violet. Whether he's taking on a government minister or a BBC boss, he tends to speak his mind. Paxman calls a spade a spade and a cut a c***.

His forthright opinion on the demise of the Newsnight email – a daily plug for the show, sent to a few hacks and Newsnight nerds – is below.

Paxman used the valedictory email to attack BBC bosses and be generally contemptuous of new media. It's well worth a read.

Good morning. And good afternoon. Or possibly, good evening.

Welcome to positively the last Newsnight daily email. The time has come to put this exercise in fatuousness out of its misery.

It gives me no pleasure to say that it should have happened years ago. Actually, I lie. There is more joy in heaven, etc, etc.

The reason for killing it off is pretty straightforward. It's crap.

Conscientious readers may have noticed that Monday's email this week was actually promoting a programme which went out last week. A carrier pigeon would have been quicker.

The daily email was dreamed up – like so many other utterly brilliant initiatives (anyone recall the Newsnight podcast, for people who preferred their television without pictures?) – by visionary senior management at the BBC.

For a while we even sent out a morning email, as well, detailing the mental anguish of the editor on duty that day, and soliciting suggestions as to what people would like to see on air that evening. This, too, often arrived after the show had been broadcast.

Like a dodgy plumber skulking away from a flooded bathroom, those responsible are blaming the tools of their trade. In this case, they're right. The piece of kit (the "gizmo", to give it its technical name) which sends out the email is completely useless and we can't afford to fix it.

But fear not. There are other, thrilling ways to make sure you're not pleasurably surprised when the programme goes on air. The fascinating blog on the Newsnight website is updated every day, and we're also on Twitter and Facebook.

Alternatively, you could just switch on your television to BBC Two at 10.30pm.

So, farewell daily email. And a Happy New Year, Merry Christmas, Easter and Millennium Eve to all our viewers.

Jeremy Paxman

Follow @duncanrobinson on Twitter here.

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A swimming pool and a bleeding toe put my medical competency in doubt

Doctors are used to contending with Google. Sometimes the search engine wins. 

The brutal heatwave affecting southern Europe this summer has become known among locals as “Lucifer”. Having just returned from Italy, I fully understand the nickname. An early excursion caused the beginnings of sunstroke, so we abandoned plans to explore the cultural heritage of the Amalfi region and strayed no further than five metres from the hotel pool for the rest of the week.

The children were delighted, particularly my 12-year-old stepdaughter, Gracie, who proceeded to spend hours at a time playing in the water. Towelling herself after one long session, she noticed something odd.

“What’s happened there?” she asked, holding her foot aloft in front of my face.

I inspected the proffered appendage: on the underside of her big toe was an oblong area of glistening red flesh that looked like a chunk of raw steak.

“Did you injure it?”

She shook her head. “It doesn’t hurt at all.”

I shrugged and said she must have grazed it. She wasn’t convinced, pointing out that she would remember if she had done that. She has great faith in plasters, though, and once it was dressed she forgot all about it. I dismissed it, too, assuming it was one of those things.

By the end of the next day, the pulp on the underside of all of her toes looked the same. As the doctor in the family, I felt under some pressure to come up with an explanation. I made up something about burns from the hot paving slabs around the pool. Gracie didn’t say as much, but her look suggested a dawning scepticism over my claims to hold a medical degree.

The next day, Gracie and her new-found holiday playmate, Eve, abruptly terminated a marathon piggy-in-the-middle session in the pool with Eve’s dad. “Our feet are bleeding,” they announced, somewhat incredulously. Sure enough, bright-red blood was flowing, apparently painlessly, from the bottoms of their big toes.

Doctors are used to contending with Google. Often, what patients discover on the internet causes them undue alarm, and our role is to provide context and reassurance. But not infrequently, people come across information that outstrips our knowledge. On my return from our room with fresh supplies of plasters, my wife looked up from her sun lounger with an air of quiet amusement.

“It’s called ‘pool toe’,” she said, handing me her iPhone. The page she had tracked down described the girls’ situation exactly: friction burns, most commonly seen in children, caused by repetitive hopping about on the abrasive floors of swimming pools. Doctors practising in hot countries must see it all the time. I doubt it presents often to British GPs.

I remained puzzled about the lack of pain. The injuries looked bad, but neither Gracie nor Eve was particularly bothered. Here the internet drew a blank, but I suspect it has to do with the “pruning” of our skin that we’re all familiar with after a soak in the bath. This only occurs over the pulps of our fingers and toes. It was once thought to be caused by water diffusing into skin cells, making them swell, but the truth is far more fascinating.

The wrinkling is an active process, triggered by immersion, in which the blood supply to the pulp regions is switched off, causing the skin there to shrink and pucker. This creates the biological equivalent of tyre treads on our fingers and toes and markedly improves our grip – of great evolutionary advantage when grasping slippery fish in a river, or if trying to maintain balance on slick wet rocks.

The flip side of this is much greater friction, leading to abrasion of the skin through repeated micro-trauma. And the lack of blood flow causes nerves to shut down, depriving us of the pain that would otherwise alert us to the ongoing tissue damage. An adaptation that helped our ancestors hunt in rivers proves considerably less use on a modern summer holiday.

I may not have seen much of the local heritage, but the trip to Italy taught me something new all the same. 

This article first appeared in the 17 August 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump goes nuclear