I cant take your guide dog, Ive got an allergy

Discrimination against people with assistance dogs happens more often than you might imagine, and it never gets easier. BBC journalist Damon Rose tells his own story.

Last Friday, Transport for London took a mini cab driver to court for refusing to take my guide dog, and I was due to be the witness. The driver pleaded not guilty but, five minutes before the trial was due to start, he changed his plea to guilty. I won, I’m very pleased.

Over the years, I became fed up – as driver after driver refused to carry me and my dog. I took to getting my iPhone out sometimes to film as I attempted to make journeys. And then, one morning in May last year, I captured one such refusal on video.

When you watch the footage back, I am quite happy leaving the house – talking to my guide dog, telling the camera he’s sweet. He’s a small Labrador retriever cross, he’s three years old and his name is DeeBee.

As I walk towards where I imagine the taxi has parked, it plays out like a textbook case of discrimination – the kind that assistance dog owners are more than familiar with.

The driver greets me in a friendly manner and then he spots the dog.

“Oh I’m sorry sir, I am allergic to dogs,” he says.

I’ve learned that taxi drivers can’t just say they’re allergic and drive away. They need proof of their allergy because many would rather not carry a dog, perhaps not understanding that assistance dogs are highly trained and won’t jump all over the seats like an excitable puppy.

The Equality Act 2010 states that taxi and minicab drivers must carry assistance dogs unless they have genuine health reasons not to do so. Local authorities will provide a driver with an exemption certificate if they give proof from an appropriately qualified medic. The certificates should then be available to show to an assistance dog owner on demand.

The ability to read the certificates is, of course, a bit of an issue for many guide dog owners – but my plan was to capture his paperwork on film and show it to a colleague later.

So, I asked for his exemption certificate. The video shows him hunting through papers in his car and finding nothing – but he assures me he has an allergy and urges: “You can check with my GP.”

“I’m getting sneezy because I’m staying near the dog,” he says. “This is going to put me in danger of my health, and surely you don’t really want that do you?”

And indeed, I really wouldn’t want him to be harmed if he did genuinely have an allergy. But was he being harmed? Or was I being wronged?

“If it’s such a big health issue for you, you would have got an exemption certificate,” you hear me say on the video.

While being questioned in court, the driver maintained he had an allergy but, nine months on from the incident, was still unable to provide proof.

The driver worked for Uber but does not any more. If you open the Uber app, go to the menu, click on Help then Accessibility, you’ll see that Uber provides a specific space for assistance dog owners to report any issues arising when using the Uber partners taxi: “I want to report a service animal issue”.

This is how I have reported five refusal incidents in the past 18 months and have been called by friendly Irish-accented staff asking if I’m OK and then taking down details.

A survey of more than 1,000 assistance dog owners, conducted by Guide Dogs in spring 2015, found that 75% had been refused access to a restaurant, shop or taxi because they had an assistance dog with them.

My video footage helped me to get justice in this case.

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TFL’s lawyer told the court the driver had claimed initially that I had been aggressive and had “chased” him – not easy to do if you are blind. She went on to say that the driver had conceded this was not the case, after having viewed the video in which I was very calm and measured.

The driver in the video I took has been blurred out – at my request. That’s not because he’s innocent – he’s not – but because he’s received a fine plus court fees which amount to almost £1,500 – and I think that’s punishment enough.

The reason I’m sharing the video is because disability discrimination is an odd beast and, to the untrained eye, may not look like discrimination at all. But what happens in this video is a criminal offence – when you become a cab driver, you sign up to this contract. If you don’t want to take dogs, don’t be a cab driver.

Minicab or private hire vehicle drivers (unless they have a medical exemption):

• Must carry the assistance dog and allow it to remain with their owner

• Cannot refuse a booking, or refuse to carry out a booking, due to someone having an assistance dog with them

• Cannot charge extra for carrying an assistance dog

• Have a duty to provide a reasonable service

Taken from the Guide Dogs charity website

If you watch the video and think “he seems nice to me”, that’s not the point. He probably is a really nice fella, but didn’t understand the implications of what he was doing – how it excludes people. That’s why the laws exist. When the next taxi turns up, and the driver lets the dog jump in, that doesn’t fix what just happened. It does not stop what happened spinning round in your mind for days.

I have initiated two more cases against minicab drivers since this one, both of whom just drove away without saying a word. Now, each time I leave my front door I get my camera ready because I fear I’ll be refused again – like I have been dozens of times before. That goes for restaurants and the occasional shop too.

An old online disability magazine, Ragged Edge, once named this type of thing “little acts of degradation”.

These days we might think of it as the kind of drip, drip, drip effect which causes trauma – chipping away at that part of your brain which stores all your disability insecurities, the job rejections, the name-calling across the street, the mandatory online training at work that turns out to be inaccessible… and taxi drivers, who in this case abandoned me on the pavement from where it took me several minutes to find my front door again even though it was just feet away.

The big irony is that I ordered a mini cab to pick me up from outside the magistrates’ court after the hearing. Can you guess what happened? The taxi driver called me when he arrived, asked me where I was, told me he could see me, then cancelled the job and drove away.

Admittedly, it’s not too easy to park directly outside the court where I was – but he chose to leave a blind person on the kerb, in the rain and sleet, without attempting to find another location and without any explanation.

It’s up to me to guess what happened. I think I can. And if I’m wrong… I’m afraid I’m still thinking it.

Read more: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk

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Freeze continues as snow traps vehicles

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Media captionAmbulance rescued on snowy road in Basingstoke

Freezing temperatures are continuing into the weekend after snow once again left many motorists stuck in their vehicles overnight.

Highways England said police had worked until 02:00 GMT on Saturday to free vehicles from the M3 near Basingstoke.

And Kent Police tweeted it had had an “incredibly busy night” with “numerous” collisions and stranded cars.

The Met Office said temperatures could reach -16C (3F) in Scotland on Saturday night but that Sunday should be milder.

Highways England South East operations manager Robert Bell said: “We have every sympathy for drivers who found themselves stranded in the severe weather.

“Safety is our top priority and our teams of gritters and snow ploughs, supported by our traffic officers, worked through the night to keep the roads treated.”

Disruption on the roads continued in Kent on Saturday, with local highways officers tweeting that drivers may not be able to access vehicles abandoned overnight on the A2045 “due to the continued risk of falling trees”.

However the A249, which was closed overnight on Friday, has now reopened.

Services on South Western Railway – which runs trains from London as far west as Exeter – could face disruption until midday on Saturday after “a band of heavy snow”, National Rail warned.

Yellow weather warnings for snow and ice are expected to remain in place across the UK until noon on Saturday.

Pitch inspections

The weather has also affected this weekend’s football programme, with Saturday’s match between Port Vale and Tranmere Rovers postponed because of a frozen pitch.

Five Scottish League One and Two matches have also been postponed.

Several of Saturday’s matches will be subject to pitch inspections on Saturday morning but fans heading for matches can check for the latest updates on postponements on the BBC Sport website.

London City Airport cancelled or diverted several flights on Friday evening because of heavy snowfall but normal services have now resumed.

The airport said any concerned passengers should “check their flight status in advance” with their airline.

Bristol airport also closed its runway due to snow on Friday. Services are expected to return to normal on Saturday, but the airport said there may be some further delays due to the de-icing of runways.

Cardiff airport was also anticipating some disruption “due to adverse weather”.

Image copyright Gareth Fuller/PA
Image caption The A2045 in Walderslade is closed due to falling trees

Southern England bore the brunt of Friday’s fresh snowfall, with the Met Office recording snow at a depth of 19cm (7.5in) at RAF Odiham near Basingstoke on Friday evening.

Basingstoke and North Hampshire Hospital made an appeal for nursing staff within walking distance to help, as it faced staffing issues when the town’s roads becoming gridlocked on Friday.

Temperatures fell to their lowest level this winter in the early hours of Friday, with Braemar, Aberdeenshire, dropping to -15.4C (6F).

This is the lowest in the UK since 2012 – when temperatures fell to -15.6C in Holbeach, Lincolnshire.

What’s the weekend forecast?

BBC weather presenter Helen Willetts said there was lying snow in many parts of the UK, and the ice risk remained high through Saturday night and into Sunday morning.

Snow showers would ease in the later part of the day, but the weather is expected to turn very cold overnight, with experts predicting “the coldest night of the winter so far”.

Temperatures even in cities such as London and Birmingham could fall to a “very unusual” -4 or -5, with -12 expected over the snowfields in Scotland.

However Sunday will mark “a day of change” with milder air pushing in bringing heavy rain and some windy conditions in the coming week.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionTravel disruption could continue into Saturday and Sunday

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    Big rise in CO2 expected in 2019

    Image copyright Getty Images
    Image caption Warm conditions mean trees can absorb less CO2 say scientists

    Met Office researchers expect to record one of the biggest rises in atmospheric concentrations of CO2 in 2019.

    Every year, the Earth’s natural carbon sinks such as forests soak up large amounts of CO2 produced by human activities.

    But in years when the tropical Pacific region is warmer like this year, trees and plants grow less and absorb smaller amounts of the gas.

    As a result, scientists say 2019 will see a much bigger CO2 rise than 2018.

    Since 1958, the research observatory at Mauna Loa in Hawaii, has been continuously monitoring and collecting data on the chemical composition of the atmosphere.

    In the years since they first started recording, the observatory has seen a 30% increase in the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere caused by emissions of fossil fuels and deforestation.

    Scientists argue that the increase would have been even larger without the ability of the forests, land and seas to soak up around half of the gas emitted by human activities.

    This ability however, varies with the seasons.

    Image copyright Met Office
    Image caption Forecast CO₂ concentrations at Mauna Loa over 2019 (orange), along with previous forecast concentrations for 2016 (blue), 2017 (green), 2018 (pink) and Scripps Institute measurements (black).

    In the summer, CO2 levels in the atmosphere fall as the trees and plants soak up more of the carbon as they grow. In the winter, when they drop their leaves, they soak up less and atmospheric levels rise.

    But when temperatures are warmer and drier than normal, trees and plants grow less and absorb less. This natural variation is compounded in years when there’s an El Niño event, which sees an upwelling of heat from the Pacific into the atmosphere.

    “The warm sea surface conditions now will continue over the next few months and that will lead into the vegetation response,” said Dr Chris Jones from the Met Office.

    “Around the world this heat has different impacts, in some places it’s hotter and drier and you get more forest fires, in a tropical rainforest for instance you reduce the natural growth of the vegetation.”

    According to the Met Office, these limits on the ability to absorb CO2 will see a rise in concentrations this year of 2.75 parts per million, which is higher than the 2018 level.

    They are forecasting that average CO2 concentrations in 2019 will be 411ppm. Carbon dioxide concentration exceeded 400ppm for the first time in 2013.

    This year’s predicted rise won’t be as big as in the El Niño years of 2015-16 and 1997-98. However there have only been increases similar to this year’s, about half a dozen times since records began.

    Image caption An image showing the 2015 El Niño with rising temperatures in the Pacific

    Researchers say the long-term trend is only going in one direction.

    “The year-on-year increase of CO2 is getting steadily bigger as it has done throughout the whole of the 20th century,” said Dr Jones.

    “What we are seeing for next year will be one of the biggest on record and it will certainly lead to the highest concentration of CO2.”

    Other researchers say the Met Office findings are worrying.

    “The increases in CO2 are a function of our continued reliance on fossil fuels,” said Dr Anna Jones, from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS).

    “Some tempering in the rate of increase arise from the Earth’s ability to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, but that can change year-on-year as the Met Office forecast shows.”

    “What’s critical, however, is that the persistent rise in atmospheric CO2 is entirely at odds with the ambition to limit global warming to 1.5C. We need to see a reduction in the rate of CO2 emissions, not an increase.”

    The Met Office scientists say that it doesn’t always follow that a record CO2 concentration will lead to a record global temperature in 2019, as there are many natural factors that can impact the final figure.

    The researchers there are pleased that observations over the past four years show that their model is accurate. They believe it can be used in the future to help countries accurately attribute increases in emissions to their actions or to natural factors.

    Follow Matt on Twitter.

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    Boxing Day Family Puzzler 2018

    It’s time once again for my Boxing Day Family Puzzler – a seasonal distraction now in its 11th year. As regular readers will know, this is the quiz where no-one is expected to know any of the answers.

    The questions relate to events in the past 12 months – and all the solutions are numbers. This year, as a special treat in these troubled times, I’ve included bonus questions, raising the number from 20 to 23.

    Contestants must simply use wisdom and judgement to come as close to the right figure as they can. Each player/team should write their guesses down before revealing them.

    One mark for the closest answer and three if by coincidence, or brilliance, you get it spot on.

    Good luck.

    1) The British have an unfortunate reputation for not speaking foreign languages. In the past financial year, how much did the Brexit department pay the EU Council for interpreters?

    2) The average salary for a male footballer in the Premier League is now a little over £2.64m a year. What is the average salary for a player in the Women’s Super League, according to analysis this year?

    Image copyright Reuters

    3) The mythical animal of the year is clearly the unicorn, inspiring vast amounts of single-horned merchandise. As of 20 December, a search for the word “unicorn” on the e-commerce site etsy.com produced how many different unicorn-inspired items?

    4) The UK’s summer of 2018 was designated the equal hottest on record. July was particularly sunny. How many hours and minutes of sunshine did the UK enjoy on an average July day this year?

    Image copyright Getty Images

    5) The Harry Potter phenomenon shows no sign of a let-up, with the new film, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, released last month. It cost $200m (£158m) to make. How much, in dollars, did it recoup at the box office in the first 72 hours?

    6) The fastest lap in Formula 1 history was set in 2004 at Monza by Juan Pablo Montoya… until this year. At the same circuit, in September, 38-year-old Kimi Raikkonen amazed the motor-racing world by completing a lap more quickly than anyone ever. In miles per hour, what was the Finn’s average speed?

    Image copyright Reuters

    7) US President Donald Trump’s tendency to say things that prove not entirely accurate has led the Washington Post to set up a fact-checking service. According to that site, how many untrue statements did the president make on the day of a Republican rally in Houston, Texas, on 22 October?

    Image copyright Getty Images

    8) The BBC thriller Bodyguard became the most watched drama in television history this year. What proportion of people in the UK watched at least some of it, according to official figures?

    Image copyright Reuters

    9) Every possible precaution was taken to ensure the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s wedding went smoothly. Police identified 54 women whose obsession with the royals saw them classified as potential “stalkers”. How many men were similarly identified?

    10) The gaming sensation of 2018 is the multiplayer shooter (and floss-dancer) game Fortnite. A survey of 1,000 players asked if they had ever skipped school or work to participate. What proportion of students admitted they had missed lessons to play?

    Image copyright Getty Images

    11) Welsh table tennis player Anna Hursey was the youngest competitor at the Commonwealth Games, on Australia’s Gold Coast this year, at just 11. How old was the oldest competitor, a Canadian shooter?

    12) Despite concerns about pub closures, this year saw a record number of alcohol licences operating in England and Wales. The council with the largest number of places where you can buy and drink booze turns out to be Westminster. How many places?

    13) Following the Brexit vote, one type of job has boomed – Whitehall civil servants. On average, how many extra bureaucrat posts have been created in Westminster each week since the referendum?

    14) In early March, blustery weather meant a quarter of UK energy was being produced by wind turbines. Across 2018, how many homes do experts calculate are now powered by the wind?

    15) The chancellor announced an extra £400m for English schools in the Budget in October. How much did he announce for potholes?

    Image copyright Getty Images

    16) There was drama at Crufts dog show in Birmingham when an animal rights protester was wrestled to the ground live on TV just seconds after whippet Collooney Tartan Tease was crowned best in show. How many dogs competed for the top prize?

    17) Alongside the football World Cup in Russia this summer, video gamers held their own virtual version. The final of the Fifa eWorld Cup, held at London’s O2 Arena, saw Mosaad Aldossary, from Saudi Arabia, clinch the $250,000 (£198,000) top prize. According to the organisers, how many players participated in the competition?

    18) The average congregation at a Church of England church on a Sunday has fallen to just 28 people. But it’s a different story at Christmas. How many people attended Anglican services in England on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day last year?

    19) It’s no ordinary bottle of whisky. How much, in sterling, did a bottle of 1926 Macallan Valerio Adami sell for in October?

    20) Supplies of oat milk ran short this year, following a big rise in people seeking alternatives to dairy. According to a government survey, what proportion of 16- to 24-year-olds with a food intolerance say they have an adverse reaction to cows’ milk?

    Image copyright Getty Images

    21) The England football team’s first World Cup match against Tunisia was watched by 65.8% of TV viewers. What proportion of viewers in Iceland watched their country’s first World Cup game, against Argentina?

    Image copyright Science Photo Library

    22) On the second day of Christmas my true love gave me two turtle doves. But in the UK, they are an endangered species. This year a government report suggested a 98% fall in numbers since 1970. If right, how many breeding pairs are left?

    23) According to a survey this year, the cheapest city to buy a Christmas tree is Prague, where a six-footer costs about €11 (£9.92). What is the equivalent price of a tree in Dublin, in euros?

    Answers at the bottom

    1) £1,032,282

    2) £26,752

    3) 216,626

    4) 7 hours and 44 minutes

    5) $258.7m

    6) 163.8

    7) 83

    8) 26%

    9) 106

    10) 35%

    11) 79

    12) 2,938

    13) 40

    14) 14.48 million

    15) £420m

    16) 20,822

    17) 20 million

    18) 2.68 million

    19) £848,000

    20) 46%

    21) 99.6%

    22) 2,500

    23) €146

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    Gangs ‘get prison jobs to smuggle drugs’

    Media playback is unsupported on your device
    Media captionThe BBC’s Danny Shaw tried out the new body scanner, which caught an inmate smuggling drugs on its first day in use

    Police say there is growing evidence that members of organised criminal gangs are getting prison service jobs to smuggle banned items.

    A senior officer has told the BBC he has “strong suspicions” this is happening, but links are hard to prove.

    Ministers admit it “can happen” but say better search techniques will help.

    An “X-ray” body scanner to detect drugs has been installed at Leeds jail, one of 10 where ministers aim to cut drug-fuelled violence by the summer.

    Prisons minister Rory Stewart says he’s “cautiously optimistic”.

    In August he said he would resign if the 10 prisons did not improve within a year under a £10m programme to improve their security and living conditions.

    The programme also includes building repairs, better perimeter security and the use of sniffer dogs at the jails which the Ministry of Justice has identified as having “acute problems” with high drug use, violence and poor buildings.

    “I believe we can do it,” Mr Stewart told the BBC in December. “We’ve got early indications in some of these prisons we’re beginning to get a grip on it.”

    The 10 prisons are Hull, Humber, Isis, Leeds, Lindholme, Moorland, Nottingham, Ranby, Wealstun and Wormwood Scrubs.

    Official figures, analysed by BBC News, show that the number of assaults has increased steadily since 2014 and was projected to increase last year in all the jails except Nottingham and Wormwood Scrubs.

    However, Mr Stewart acknowledged some jails might try to reduce assaults simply by moving dangerous offenders to other establishments.

    “That’s definitely a risk. I’m very, very clear, though, we need to play this fair. The idea is that I can look other governors in the face and say: ‘We turned around these ten prisons without cheating. ‘”

    Police believe the drugs trade in jails is co-ordinated by organised crime groups.

    Assistant Chief Constable Jason Hogg, who leads on prison intelligence for the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said he “strongly suspects” gangs are getting their associates or family members jobs in the prison service with the intention of smuggling contraband in, although it was difficult to prove.

    ‘Less than 1%’

    ACC Hogg said he was unaware of any cases where people caught with contraband in prison had been “forthcoming” about their links to organised crime – but added there were examples of people getting jobs within the prison staff and then being recruited by criminals.

    Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mark Fairhurst, of the Prison Officers Association, said there was evidence both prison officers and civilian staff were employed by criminal gangs around the UK, but that those people accounted for “less than 1%” of prison staff.

    He added the use of X-ray body scanners was “vital” in the battle against drugs in prisons.

    However, a former prison inmate, who identified himself only as David, told Today that drugs were a “reality of prison life”.

    He added: “No matter what kind of security, if somebody wants a drug they will get a drug.”

    Image caption At Leeds jail, the scanner has already helped staff spot this prisoner returning with a packet of drugs inside him

    Mr Stewart said searching was the “answer” to the problem of corruption.

    “Searching, not just in terms of finding a bad apple, but also if you have very good search procedures in place, it’s much more difficult for a prisoner to put pressure on a prison officer,” he said.

    HMP Leeds is the first of the 10 prisons to have installed an X-ray scanner to detect packages hidden inside a prisoner’s body. The scanner, which costs about £120,000, operates in a similar way to a standard hospital X-ray machine – but the level of radiation is 400 times lower.

    A prisoner will be scanned only when intelligence indicates they may be carrying drugs – up to a maximum of 50 times a year.

    Prison staff at Leeds believe the X-ray scanner will act as a “game changer” in the battle to stop drugs getting in but the governor, Steve Robson, warned that offenders were adept at finding other methods, even smuggling new psychoactive substances (PS), such as Spice into their clothes or clothes worn by prison visitors.

    “They have been soaking clothes in drugs and then either smoking bits of cut up clothing or then using the kettles boiling the drugs out and impregnating them back into the paper,” said Mr Robson.

    “We found lots of bits of dressing gown that we tested that came back very high for PS and fitted in with the intelligence that had happened so we started swabbing all the clothes.”

    He said it was a game of “cat and mouse”.

    “You close one avenue and the more ingenious will think of other ways of doing things,” he said.

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    Striking photojournalism from around the UK

    We’ve picked a selection of some of the most striking pictures taken around the United Kingdom during the past year.

    Image copyright Jack Taylor / Getty Images
    Image caption A blue morpho butterfly rests on the face of model Jessie Baker at RHS Garden Wisley near Woking, Surrey.
    Image copyright Jane Barlow / PA
    Image caption Members of the Junior Jarl Squad carry flaming torches through Lerwick, on the Shetland Isles, during the Up Helly Aa Viking festival, which is held annually on the last Tuesday in January.
    Image copyright Owen Humphreys / PA
    Image caption People walk their dogs on Blyth Beach, in Northumberland, after several centimetres of snow fell in some parts of the country in February.
    Image copyright Victoria Jones / PA
    Image caption Stormzy performs on stage during the 2018 Brit Awards show at the O2 Arena, in south-east London.
    Image copyright BEN STANSALL / AFP
    Image caption Members of the emergency services fix a tent over the bench where Sergei and Yulia Skripal were found in a critical condition at The Maltings shopping centre in Salisbury, Wilts, on 4 March. Police believe that the Russian former double-agent and his daughter were “targeted specifically” with the nerve agent Novichok.
    Image copyright Charles McQuillan / Getty Images
    Image caption Competitors take part in the annual Mud Madness event in Portadown, Co Armagh. The event includes two laps of a muddy 8km (five-mile) course through 25 obstacles.
    Image copyright Chris Jackson / Getty Images
    Image caption The Duchess of Cambridge leaves St Mary’s Hospital, in London, with her newborn son, Prince Louis. The prince was born on 23 April at 11:01 and is fifth in line to the throne.
    Image copyright ADRIAN DENNIS / AFP
    Image caption A statue of suffragist and women’s rights campaigner Millicent Fawcett is unveiled in Parliament Square, in central London. The statue marks the 100th anniversary of of the 1918 Representation of the People Act – which gave some women over the age of 30 the vote.
    Image copyright AARON CHOWN / AFP
    Image caption The Duke and Duchess of Sussex wave during a procession after their wedding ceremony at Windsor Castle, in Berkshire. Thousands of members of the public turned out to see Prince Harry and Meghan as they were driven around Windsor in a horse-drawn carriage.
    Image copyright Jeff J Mitchell / Getty Images
    Image caption First Minister Nicola Sturgeon sits on a swing at the official opening of a children’s play park in Dunfermline. The park is specially designed for both non-disabled children and children with physical and learning difficulties.
    Image copyright Anthony Devlin / Getty Images
    Image caption The Moon rises behind burning moorland as a large wildfire sweeps across the moors near Buckton Vale, Greater Manchester. The blaze broke out on 24 June and approximately 100 soldiers were drafted in to help tackle it at its height.
    Image copyright Chris Jackson / Getty Images
    Image caption A member of the public takes a selfie with the Prince of Wales as he visits Tretower Court, in Crickhowell, Powys.
    Image copyright Ministry of Defence via Getty Images
    Image caption The Red Arrows perform for a flypast over London in July. A centenary parade and a flypast of up to 100 aircraft over Buckingham Palace marked the Royal Air Force’s 100th birthday.
    Image copyright Stefan Rousseau / PA
    Image caption US President Donald Trump joins Prime Minister Theresa May at her country residence, Chequers, in his first official visit to the UK.
    Image copyright Toby Melville / Reuters
    Image caption Officials record and examine cygnets and swans during the annual census of the Queen’s swans, known as swan-upping, along the River Thames near Chertsey, Surrey.
    Image copyright Ian MacNicol / Getty Images
    Image caption Team Spain compete in the synchronised swimming teams free routine final during the Glasgow 2018 European Championships.
    Image copyright Dan Kitwood / Getty Images
    Image caption Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable speaks at the National Liberal Club, in central London, in September.
    Image copyright Hannah McKay / REUTERS
    Image caption Fashion enthusiast Sophie Cochevelou poses during London Fashion Week.
    Image copyright Jeff J Mitchell / Getty Images
    Image caption Prime Minster Theresa May dances on to the stage to deliver her leader’s speech during the final day of the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham in October.
    Image copyright Danny Lawson / PA
    Image caption Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn ascends a climbing wall at The Climbing Lab in Leeds, which was damaged by floods in December 2015.
    Image copyright Jack Taylor / Getty Images
    Image caption Sotheby’s employees pose with the Banksy artwork Love is in the Bin. Following its sale at auction for £860,000 (just over £1m with add-ons), Banksy’s Girl with Balloon unexpectedly began to pass through a shredder at the bottom of the frame, resulting in this new work of art.
    Image copyright VICTORIA JONES / AFP
    Image caption Princess Eugenie and her new husband, Jack Brooksbank, kiss as they emerge from St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, in Berkshire. The second royal wedding of the year, the ceremony was attended by 850 guests, while 1,200 people chosen by ballot followed proceedings from the grounds.
    Image copyright PAUL ELLIS / AFP
    Image caption Buddhist monks lay tributes by a photograph of Leicester City Football Club’s chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, outside the King Power Stadium. The billionaire businessman was among five people killed when his helicopter crashed and burst into flames in the stadium car park moments after taking off from the pitch.
    Image copyright Kirsty O’Connor / PA
    Image caption Capt James Pugh places a figure among artist Rob Heard’s installation Shrouds of the Somme, which honours the dead of World War One, at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in east London. Volunteers, including members of 1 Royal Anglian, laid out 72,396 small shrouded figures, representing soldiers never recovered from the Somme battlefields.
    Image copyright Leon Neal / Getty Images
    Image caption Costumed characters representing the Dreams and Wishes children’s charity emerge from No 10 Downing Street.

    All photographs are copyrighted.

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    Memorial to commemorate the dogs of war

    Image caption The sculpture is believed to be one of the largest of its kind in the UK

    An Angus memorial commemorating Airedale terriers and the soldiers they served beside in World War One will be unveiled this year.

    The memorial will be installed at East Haven Beach in Carnoustie, where Lt Col Edwin Richardson trained the dogs in the early 1900s.

    Lt Col Richardson eventually convinced the government that the Airedale was the right breed for war work.

    The sculpture is believed to be one of the largest of its kind in the UK.

    Image copyright Getty Images
    Image caption Airedale Terriers were taught to use gas masks as part of their military service
    Image copyright Getty Images
    Image caption The dogs were mainly used to carry messages in the trenches

    It is being hewn from a 30 ton block of granite by sculptor Bruce Walker and apprentice Kevin Hill.

    Mr Walker said the sculpture would capture the dogs’ dedication and power, both mental and physical.

    He said: “It’s their relationship with their handler that’s important- it was usually one man, one dog.”

    Image caption The sculpture is being hewn from a 30 ton block of granite
    Image caption Wendy Turner said the potential for dogs to carry out military duties was clear

    Wendy Turner from the Airedale Terrier Club of Scotland is the driving force behind the memorial.

    She said that even before the war, the potential for dogs to carry out military duties was clear.

    She said: “It started off with the British Red Cross and they used to send the dogs out onto the battlefield.

    “If they found someone who was still breathing they would bring back something like a cap, take it to the stretcher bearers and then lead them out to where the person was injured.

    “So that was a very important job obviously, saving lives.

    “Eventually the British Army, seeing what they were doing, got more interested in them being trained for them.”

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    Two questioned over ‘fox cub hunting’ video

    Media playback is unsupported on your device
    Media captionMeynell and South Staffordshire Hunt said it was assisting the police with their enquiries

    Two members of a fox hunt have been questioned by police on suspicion of illegal hunting, the BBC can reveal.

    Video footage from the League Against Cruel Sports allegedly shows members of the Meynell and South Staffordshire Hunt involved in cub hunting – which trains hounds to hunt foxes.

    The hunting of wild mammals with dogs is illegal in England, Wales, and Scotland.

    The hunt said it was “assisting the police with their enquiries”.

    Investigators from the League Against Cruel Sports secretly filmed the Meynell and South Staffordshire Hunt in October.

    Riders on horseback

    The videos, which have been released to the BBC, are said to show hounds being sent into a wood to hunt for foxes while riders on horseback are spaced at even intervals in the open.

    So-called “terrier men”, who assist the riders, are also present on quad bikes.

    At one point a fox is seen on the video running across a field, and it is chased by riders for a few seconds before they turn round.

    The video was submitted to Derbyshire Constabulary in October, and last week two members of the hunt were questioned by police officers.

    Police say they intend to question more people in January.

    Image caption The video was filmed by a League Against Cruel Sports investigator

    In a statement, issued via the Countryside Alliance, the hunt said: “We can confirm that the Meynell and South Staffordshire Hunt are assisting the police with their enquiries following an allegation of illegal hunting but are unable to comment further while the investigation continues.”

    The video was filmed by League Against Cruel Sports investigator, Roger Swaine.

    He also filmed the Meynell and South Staffordshire Hunt cub hunting seven years ago and the footage secured convictions against the hunt master and a hunt employee.

    It remains the only successful prosecution for cub hunting since the Hunting Act came into force in England and Wales in 2005.

    The League Against Cruel Sports says it has received 138 reports alleging cub hunting, involving 73 hunts, since this summer.

    Cub hunting takes place between late summer and the start of November, when the main hunting season begins.

    Many hunts say they only engage in trail hunting, in which hounds follow an animal scent trail left by hunt members on foot, horse-back, or from a quad bike.

    The Countryside Alliance says that if hounds pick up the scent of a real fox the huntsmen will stop the hounds as soon as they are made aware.

    Andrew Bomford’s report is for Radio 4’s PM programme.

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    Stolen dog home after two-year search

    Image copyright Trisha Joseph
    Image caption Reunited: Trisha Joseph and springer spaniel Belle

    A woman has been reunited with her dog two years after she was stolen in Powys.

    Trisha Joseph said she “never gave up” after an epic online hunt to trace her six-year-old springer spaniel Belle.

    She had joined more than 500 Facebook groups to spread the word and pictures of her dog in the hope someone would recognise her.

    It finally paid off on Friday – when keen-eyed viewers spotted Belle being put up for sale 75 miles away.

    “My phone just went mental, and messages online,” said Trisha, who lives in Defynnog.

    Belle was being sold by an 18-year-old in Worcester who had kept her for the last six months.

    He was shocked to find out the spaniel had been stolen – and insisted she went back to her rightful owners.

    “He was a hero,” said Trisha, who works as a gardener.

    “We were obviously worried he might have just gone to ground and disappeared with Belle when he found out she was stolen – but he didn’t.

    “He told us: ‘She’s yours – come and get her’.”

    Image copyright Trisha Joseph
    Image caption Belle is back home after two years

    Ms Joseph’s sister drove her to meet Belle’s latest owner – armed with a microchip scanner and the dog’s written records.

    “As soon as we arrived we knew it was her,” she said.

    “She recognised me and had a good sniff around.”

    A scan revealed it was indeed Belle.

    Returning home, Belle was “wagging with her whole body”, said Trisha.

    “She knew exactly where she was,” she added.

    No more so than when Belle was able to meet Trisha’s partner and her trainer, Wyn Price.

    “It was crazy… she was wagging, saying ‘this is you – and I love you’,” said Trisha.

    “I still can’t believe it – it’s just mental.”

    Image copyright Trisha Joseph
    Image caption Belle is delighted to be back, says Trisha

    Belle’s owners believe she was clearly targeted by thieves when she was stolen, as she was a successful working gun dog, which meant she was worth hundreds of pounds, even more as a breeding dog.

    The thieves forced locks on the barn where Belle had been kept while her owners were out, and stole her along with Patterdale terrier Hollie, who was found 90 miles away a few days later.

    “It was horrible – it was the end of the world when it happened,” said Trisha.

    “But you never give up hope – I never stopped trying to find her.”

    Now back home, her owners said it was the best Christmas present ever.

    “It’s as if she hadn’t been away. She’s in and out of the house like she used to be,” added Trisha.

    “Having her back – everything is complete.”

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    Art look-ahead in 2019: What to look out for

    Image copyright Getty Images
    Image caption Leonardo, fascinated with anatomical studies, did many drawings studying the human body

    There is only one place to start this 2019 look-ahead and that is by going back 500 years to the death of the greatest Renaissance Man of them all, Leonardo da Vinci.

    Leonardo was 67 when he died on the 2nd May 1519, having produced some of the greatest paintings of all time: The Mona Lisa, The Last Supper, The Virgin of the Rocks.

    The reason his images were so extraordinarily good was down to his most extraordinary mind (his academic interests included anatomy, mathematics, engineering, botany, geology, and the inner workings of the human psyche), aligned to his most extraordinary ability to draw and colour.

    His paintings were the culmination of everything he knew.

    Celebrating Rembrandt

    They are two major Leonardo exhibitions in 2019 celebrating his genius: the first is in the UK, where the Queen’s unrivalled collection of drawings will be on display at a variety of venues across the country.

    The second will take place in the autumn at the Louvre in Paris, which hopes to gather together as many of the great man’s 20 or so paintings as possible.

    Leonardo isn’t the only Old Master celebrating an anniversary.

    It is 350 years since the death of Rembrandt van Rijn, the greatest painter of the Dutch Golden Age.

    To mark the occasion, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is holding A Year of Rembrandt, which will start with a show in February called All The Rembrandts.

    Image copyright Getty Images
    Image caption This youthful Rembrandt self-portrait is possibly the nearest he will get to a selfie

    This “once in a lifetime” exhibition will feature all 22 Rembrandt paintings the museum owns – including The Night Watch – along with 60 drawings and more than 300 of the artist’s finest prints.

    Meanwhile, over in London, there is one Old Master being sent out on a nationwide tour.

    Image copyright National Gallery
    Image caption Artemisia Gentileschi’s artwork has been restored to its former glory by the National Gallery

    Self Portrait as Saint Catherine (c.1615) by Artemisia Gentileschi – one of the few recognised female baroque artists – will be popping up all over the UK.

    Not all dates and locations have been confirmed, but her road trip starts in March at the Glasgow Women’s Library.

    While she’s away, the National Gallery will be focusing its attention on a major exhibition of post-impressionist art with its first ever Gauguin Portraits show in the autumn.

    It is likely to be a blockbuster.

    Image copyright Getty Images
    Image caption Gauguin is pictured here with one of his paintings in 1895

    As is the British Museum’s autumn exhibition, Troy, and Tate Britain’s William Blake show, all of which will be running concurrently.

    The Scottish National Galleries also have an excellent programme of exhibitions in 2019, including a major Bridget Riley show in the summer, who will be followed by Paula Rego in November.

    The Ashmolean Museum, once a dour, dusty place, is now a splendid place to visit.

    Its permanent collection will give you a world tour through the ages, while its energetic temporary exhibition programme regularly presents the modern and contemporary.

    And who could be more of-the-moment in our consumer age than the American artist Jeff Koons, whose surreal pop creations will be on show at the Oxford institution this spring.

    Image copyright Getty Images
    Image caption Jeff Koons’ artworks include his memorable balloon dogs

    Also in the spring, you can expect queues in London at Tate Britain’s exhibition Van Gogh in Britain, and Renaissance Nude at the Royal Academy (I predict the RA’s July show of little known Finnish artist Helene Schjerfbeck will be an unexpected hit).

    If you fancy a trip to Venice, and who doesn’t, then maybe wait until the end of May when the art Biennale kicks off its six-month residency.

    Flying the flag for Britain is the installation artist Cathy Wilkes, while this year’s Turner Prize-winner Charlotte Prodger is representing Scotland, and sculptor Eva Rothschild will be filling Ireland’s pavilion with a “sculptural environment which engages with current social changes though embodiment, presence, and materiality”.

    Media playback is unsupported on your device
    Media captioniPhones, identity and independence: Why Charlotte Prodger won the Turner Prize

    Talking of sculptural environments, 2019 will see the opening of the new National Museum Qatar in Doha, designed by the French architect Jean Nouvel.

    It is constructed from multiple white, interlocking discs inspired, apparently, by a desert rose.

    It looks amazing: a modernist, geometric design, which can be traced back to Germany’s famous arts and crafts graduate school, the Bauhaus. Which also has a brand new building in Dessau to celebrate the centenary of its foundation in 1919, by the legendary architect and academic, Walter Gropius.

    There are more circular structures being turned into cultural space. This time in China, where a series of disused oil tanks in Shanghai is being converted into a 60,000 square-metre art centre.

    On the other side of the world in Los Angeles – the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures will open in autumn 2019. The building is designed by Renzo Piano and looks great.

    Image copyright AFP/Getty
    Image caption The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures has had its 1939 facade restored

    But let’s finish at the start of the year in Wales and my favourite art prize, Artes Mundi.

    Previous winners include Theaster Gates, Xu Bing and Yael Bartana. This year’s international shortlist has Otobong Nkanga from Nigeria / Belgium, and Apichatpong Weerasethakul from Thailand.

    My hunch is he will win (we’ll find out on the 24th January) but all are well worth seeing at the National Museum Cardiff in a show that finishes on 24th February.

    Happy New Year.

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