Ant Middleton dropped by Channel 4 over ‘personal conduct’

Channel 4 has said it will not work with Ant Middleton again due to his “personal conduct”.

Last year, the SAS: Who Dares Wins star faced criticism over comments about the Black Lives Matter protests and coronavirus.

In a statement, the channel confirmed he “will not be taking part in future series of SAS: Who Dares Wins”.

After a number of discussions with him, “it has become clear that our views and values are not aligned”.

“We will not be working with him again,” Channel 4 added.

Ant Middleton
image captionThe former soldier faced a backlash for his comments about coronavirus and Black Lives Matter protests

The 40-year-old said on social media he had “decided it’s time to move on from SAS Who Dares Wins UK”.

He added: “Big respect to my fellow DS – it’s been a journey I’ll never forget. Thanks to everyone that took part and made the show what it is.”

“Really excited about the future and what’s coming this year.”

In June, he apologised after referring to Black Lives Matter protesters as “absolute scum” as he complained about the “extreme left” and “extreme right” taking to the streets.

Ant said he was “anti-racist and anti-violence” after deleting the tweet.

In March last year, he backtracked on comments he made about the coronavirus pandemic after he urged people to “carry on as normal”.

He told his social media followers to not “be a sheep” and said he did not believe Government advice to self-isolate applied to him because he is “strong and able”.

The former soldier later said he had been “a bit insensitive towards the magnitude, the scale, of the crisis that’s happening in the UK”.

SAS: Who Dares Wins sees civilians put through gruelling military training exercises to test their physical and mental strength.

Ant also presented the programme’s celebrity spin-off, which has featured famous faces including 1Xtra presenter Yasmin Evans, reality star Joey Essex and ex-footballer Wayne Bridge.

Hannu Mikkola: Finnish rallying great dies aged 78

Hannu Mikkola, nicknamed ‘The Flying Finn’, won 18 world championship races

Hannu Mikkola

Finland’s rallying great Hannu Mikkola has died at the age of 78.

He won the world title in 1983 at the wheel of an Audi Quattro and was runner-up in the championship three times.

Mikkola also claimed his home 1,000 Lakes event on a record seven occasions.

“We lost my father Hannu to cancer this weekend. Most knew him as a rallying great who ushered in the golden years of the sport,” said his son Vesa.

The 2003 world champion Petter Solberg was among those to pay tribute.

“Really sad to hear the news about Hannu Mikkola – he was a legend, a proper gentleman, a real champion, and a great father to great kids. Sending all my condolences to his family and friends. RIP,” he said on Twitter.

Virtual work parties: the good, the bad and the plain peculiar

Stockholm (Reuters) – Virtual work parties? You can’t really mingle with colleagues, or dance with them, and it’s tough to get in the disco mood in your home office. On the other hand, you can’t spread disease, you don’t have to traipse home and there’s no chance of an ill-advised amorous encounter.

Entertainers prepare for an online work Christmas party organized by events firm Hire Space, unknown location, December 10, 2020. Hire Space/Handout via REUTERS

In the COVID-19 era though, gala options are limited. Companies are turning to events organisers to create virtual social events for staff. And with working-from-home here to stay, some expect demand to continue even after the pandemic.

After almost a year of doing her job from home, fintech worker Catharina Gehrke was finally able to get some proper office gossip in the virtual bathroom and smoking area at her company’s online Christmas party.

The event she attended included a (virtual) taxi ride and dance floor, a Queen Elizabeth II impersonator, a cocktail-making class, plus (real) food and drink hampers delivered to the 200 party people – the staff stuck at home.

“Although I was sitting alone in my living room, I really felt like I was at a party,” said Gehrke, who heads up the Swedish arm of online pet insurance company Bought By Many.

Gehrke sampled everything the “venue” had to offer but said the highlight was getting some juicy office gossip in the privacy of the (virtual) bathroom – where, with a click of the mouse, she could decamp from the dance floor with a select group of friends.

She said the event was one of the best work socials she’d been to, but added: “Maybe you just had to be there.”

As work habits shift, the worldwide virtual events market is expected to grow from just under $100 billion in 2020 to $400 billion by 2027, according to data from Grand View Research.

“Virtual socials are 100% here to stay, but combined with in-person events” said Rachel Haines, director of organisation and development at Swedish payments firm Klarna. “After all, I’d rather go yoga on the roof of our HQ than in my living room.”

Klarna has made virtual socialising a core part of its corporate culture during the pandemic.

“Many of our people are young and live alone,” Haines added. “Online socials are very important and we’ve pushed several big initiatives to make sure people are connected.”

These initiatives include virtual Friday drinks, weeknight cookalongs and morning yoga. Klarna has even done a team-building activity where staff solve puzzles in order to break free from a virtual “escape room”, Haines said.

‘A DOZEN SHOCKED FACES’

The work-from-home experiment has been so successful in some sectors, like finance, that many people have no intention of reverting to type. Half of finance workers in Britain, for example, do not want to return to the office after COVID-19, according to consultancy firm KPMG.

Edward Pollard, chief operating officer of events organiser Hire Space, said the surge in demand for online events during the pandemic had forced his company to innovate.

“Clients now ask us for everything from virtual horse racing to cookery classes and networking events,” Pollard said.

Yet, some workers aren’t quite so comfortable with the new order.

“I was put on the spot with a solo verse at our virtual carol,” said Jake, a London-based charity worker. After warbling a few terrible notes, he turned off his camera and pretended the internet had cut out.

“But the damage was done. I just remember a dozen shocked faces in a grid across my screen.”

Or take the case of Sebastian Woods, who works for a machine learning company in Stockholm. He was somewhat thrown when his wife, who like him has been working from their flat, took part in a Friday night work social event.

“I couldn’t concentrate on my excel spreadsheet because she was doing the Banana Dance at the kitchen table.”

Basketball-Twitch sign interactive content deal with FIBA

(Reuters) – The International Basketball Federation (FIBA) has signed a multi-year deal to show content from the sport on interactive streaming service Twitch, the organisations told Reuters on Wednesday.

Twitch is best known as a platform for e-sports and has become increasingly popular with musicians and sports teams but FIBA is the first international governing body to join the service.

Under the deal, FIBA will broadcast around 600 hours of live basketball games each year but will also give fans and influencers access to official footage to create their own content.

Twitch streams often feature ‘alternative commentary’ on content and can also feature repackaged content in the form of talk-shows or other formats.

The terms of the deal have not been made public but the money FIBA is receiving will be primarily used to invest in the content production process on the platform, Frank Leenders, Director General of FIBA Media and Marketing Services told Reuters.

“It is not a platform like YouTube where you just stream your games and people consume. You have to use the specificity of Twitch which means you have to invest in interactivity and co-streamers who are very important influencers on the platform,” he said.

“It is a partnership where we use the resources predominantly to adapt our content, build up the community and be successful over the next two years,” he added.

Twitch is seen a route to reach a younger audience who are more interested in interactive content and who traditional broadcasters may find difficult to reach.

“We believe that it is something we should embrace… to be successful with a demographic that the sports world is struggling to capture,” said Leenders.

The service is a subsidiary of Amazon and in the United Kingdom, Amazon Prime has broadcast some of its Premier League soccer matches on the platform.

Charlie Beall, Twitch EMEA Sports Lead, said the deal fit in with the service’s move to a more broader range of content.

“Whilst Twitch is known for its heritage in gaming, we have seen this organic growth outside of gaming in the last few years, particularly in music and sport,” he said.

“Non-gaming content has quadrupled over the last three years. Twitch is a community which meets around passion points and clearly that has tie-ins with particular sports.

“We identified basketball as a global sport with passionate communities in territories around the world and we want to try to do something different around the live interactive element that marks Twitch’s service out,” he added.

The live games, which will be streamed both on FIBA’s Twitch channel and on the channels of its creators’ network, will include all FIBA 3×3 competitions, the EuroLeague Women and selected youth tournaments.

Additionally, highlights and delayed coverage of FIBA’s national team and other club competitions and youth tournaments will be packaged and distributed specifically for Twitch creators.

Kim Kardashian files to divorce Kanye West – US media

Kim Kardashian has filed for divorce from rapper Kanye West, according to reports in US media.

The couple have been married for almost seven years and have four children together. 

The news was broken by celebrity news website TMZ after months of rumours of marital difficulties.

Reports in US media suggest the reality star, 40, has requested joint legal and physical custody of their children. Neither have publicly commented.

The couple are among the most recognisable stars in the world and are both hugely successful in their own right.

Kim first found fame in 2007 as the star of an E! Television reality series about her family. Keeping up with the Kardashians has remained hugely popular since, with its 21st and final series due to air next year. 

The reality star has found success in many other areas of business, from mobile apps to make-up, and Forbes estimates her personal wealth to be about $780m (£556m).

Kanye West has been one of the biggest names in rap music for over 15 years and has also found incredible success as a fashion designer. 

The couple were friends for years before they got together. They had their first daughter, North, in 2013 with three more children – Saint, Chicago and Psalm – following after their 2014 marriage

Rush Limbaugh, US conservative icon, dies aged 70

Rush Limbaugh, the controversial US radio personality and political commentator, has died aged 70. 

His wife Kathryn Adams announced his death on his radio show on Wednesday. He had been suffering from lung cancer. 

Best known as the host of the long-running talk radio programme The Rush Limbaugh Show, he was a towering figure in the conservative movement for years. 

Three presidents appeared on his show, and he received the US Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2020.

But he was as controversial as he was influential, voicing racist, sexist and homophobic views throughout his career.

The climate change denier peddled numerous conspiracy theories on the air, staunchly opposed immigration, and was a hard-line advocate for US exceptionalism. He was also a vocal supporter of President Donald Trump.

Born in Missouri on 12 January 1951, Limbaugh first began working in radio at his local station when he was in high school. After graduating in 1969, he started at Southeast Missouri State University but dropped out after two semesters and took his first job at a music radio station in Pennsylvania.

Limbaugh initially struggled to succeed in broadcasting. He was fired from his first two jobs and moved back in with his parents in Missouri. He became the host of a public affairs talk show in Kansas City, but again lost his position. 

Rush Limbaugh presenting his radio show in 1995
image captionThe Rush Limbaugh Show has been on the air since the 1980s

In 1979, he began working for the Kansas City Royals baseball team. During this time he took trips to Europe and Asia, experiences Limbaugh later said reinforced his belief in US exceptionalism.

“I go to Europe and say, ‘Wait a minute. Why is this bedroom so damned old-fashion and doesn’t work? What the hell is this? They call this a toilet?’ So I started asking myself: ‘How is it that we, who have only been around 200 years, are light-years ahead of people that have been alive a thousand?'” he told his listeners in 2013.

Limbaugh returned to radio in 1983, launching The Rush Limbaugh Show the following year at California’s KFBK radio station.

But the outspoken conservative only began to find widespread success after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) repealed its fairness doctrine in 1987 – a regulation requiring US broadcasters to present both sides of a controversial opinion. As the Wall Street Journal put it in 2005, this decision led to “hyper-articulate conservative hosts opening their microphones to millions of hyper-angry conservative voters”.

In 1988 the show became nationally syndicated, broadcast live on hundreds of radio stations around the country. By 2020, it attracted around 27 million listeners each week. 

The programme and its host developed huge influence in the Republican Party and the US conservative movement. 

President George HW Bush appeared on the programme during his re-election campaign in 1992, while his son George W Bush appeared six times – before, during and after his time in office. President Donald Trump also came on the show in January 2020, when Limbaugh – an ardent advocate of US interventions abroad – praised him for ordering a US drone strike that killed Iranian General Qasem Soleimani.

Rush Limbaugh with President Donald Trump
image captionRush Limbaugh was a vocal supporter of President Donald Trump

Limbaugh’s controversial views frequently caused outrage. 

He drew strong criticism for his use of racial stereotypes on his show, including once claiming that all newspaper composite images of wanted criminals looked like civil rights activist Rev Jesse Jackson. 

He declared his opposition to LGBT rights, and made derogatory remarks about victims of the HIV/Aids epidemic.

He dismissed sexual consent and disparaged advocates of women’s rights. “Feminism was established so as to allow unattractive women access to the mainstream of society,” he once wrote, frequently dismissing women as “femi-Nazis”. 

And he voiced a number of lies and fringe theories to his listeners, claiming that President Barack Obama was not born in the US, denying the existence of man-made climate change, accusing environmentalists of deliberately causing the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010, and arguing that the dangers of smoking had been exaggerated while the benefits dismissed. “I would like a medal for smoking cigars, is what I’m saying,” he told listeners in 2015.

Rush Limbaugh at a rally in 2018
image captionHe was a hugely influential figure on the right in the US

In February 2020 he claimed the coronavirus was “the common cold” and said it was being “weaponised as yet another element to bring down Donald Trump”. 

Mr Trump awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2020. The president said the highest civilian honour in the US was to recognise Limbaugh’s “decades of tireless devotion to our country” and his millions of daily listeners “that you speak to and inspire”. 

It came just the day after Limbaugh announced that he had advanced lung cancer.

In October he told his audience that the illness had progressed in “the wrong direction”. 

“I never thought I would see 1 October,” he said. 

Limbaugh married four times and divorced three times but never had any children. He leaves behind his wife Kathryn Rogers.

Source: BBC

The restaurants reaching out on Valentine’s day’

For those who are single, tired of the competitive romanticism of a regular Valentine’s Day dinner, or just want a special treat, Britain’s chefs have an alternative for you.

Ruth Smith
image caption”It means I’m really looking forward to Valentine’s Day,” says Ruth Smith

Eateries from local cafes to Michelin-starred restaurants are packaging up special dinners as a treat, in a bid to keep customers coming back when the pandemic is over.

Rather than takeaway outlets, these are sit-down restaurants which have had to adapt to lockdown.

For Ruth Smith, who lives in East Molesey, near London, it’s an opportunity for a fancy meal on Valentine’s Day without being surrounded by loved-up couples.

“I definitely wouldn’t have ordered a special restaurant meal as a treat, I would have probably got to takeaway,” she told the BBC. ” I think, to be honest, it’s not really something that I was aware was an option.”

But this Valentine’s Day she will be getting a three-course meal kit from her local cafe, choosing from twice-baked cheese souffle with fennel and apple salad, individual beef Wellington, vanilla panna cotta with cardamom, and rose infused streusel.

“It means I’m really looking forward to Valentine’s Day rather than kind of thinking, oh I’m going to be on my own and really not concerned at all this year.”

Chris and Vicky Saynor
image captionVicky and Chris Saynor say enjoying a high-end meal at home is an attractive prospect after home schooling their children

Beyond buying each other a card, Vicky and Chris Saynor from Hertfordshire are also not regular Valentine’s Day devotees.

“We made a pledge when we first got together that we just think it’s really expensive to do anything around Valentine’s Day, so it’s something that we don’t tend to celebrate,” says Ms Saynor.

But after many weeks of home schooling their four children, it’s time for a treat she says.

“They’ve designed it to be a very luxury product, so we’re having beef Wellington, macrons, and they’ve made a special cocktail which will get in little jars.”

“It’s a really premium products that they’re using and therefore the price tag fits that but obviously for them they’re missing out on one of the busiest days of the year for them for trade so that’s why we thought we’d do it.”

Thom Parris
image captionThom Parris of Next Door Records says his business was opened during the pandemic, so adapting has been easier than it might have been

Thom Parris of Next Door Records in London said his Valentine’s Day meals are mainly about nurturing relationships with customers, as well as customers’ relationships.

He and some friends dreamed up a cafe and record shop and set it up six months ago.

“We’re not allowed to have anybody in the shop – we’ve been rolling out food home kits once a week,” he says.

Today’s kit will feature duck confit paired with a red wine followed by chocolate strawberries.

“It takes a lot of management of everything, but for us, I think it’s the most rewarding things we’re doing at the moment where we can still continue relationships with customers.”

andreas antona
image captionAndreas Antona says delivering high-end food to his customers has come as a rare opportunity in a difficult year.

Andreas Antona, who owns the upmarket Simpson’s restaurant in Edgbaston, Birmingham, says home delivery is a ray of sunshine ain an otherwise abysmal market. 

“It’s been the worst year ever,” he says. “I’ve grown up in this industry, I’ve never known anything like it.”

“And, in particular, this year, 2021 has been harder, the first lockdown seemed to be a bit of a breeze compared to what’s going to possibly happen going forward, so yeah, it’s getting into a very difficult place.”

rose

He started his home delivery service in May. Like Mr Parris, he aims to keep customers onside in the hope of luring them back after lockdown ends.

He is offering a starter, Beef Wellington ,pudding and a cheese course, or Cornish lobster soup followed by a chicken dish. Those looking to really lash out can buy caviar, truffles and wine.

“You know, people are really going to town on this and it’s something to look forward to, and it breaks up the monotony of just being at home, so it helps everyone, I think.”

Customers will reheat, finish and plate the food, he says, which offers a chance for some creativity.

By Katy Austin

Can online sex build intimacy?

Social isolation has also meant sexual isolation for people keen to explore physical intimacy. Is virtual sex enough – or do we need to be touched?

About three months into lockdown in the UK, 26-year-old student Emma signed into a Zoom meeting with a group of people she’d only ever met through online chats. Organised by Killing Kittens, a company that, pre-Covid-19, hosted in-person sex parties with an emphasis on women’s empowerment, the “virtual house party” kicked off with drinking games. It was unlike anything she’d ever attended.

“We played ‘Never Have I Ever’,” she says, “and [the organisers] asked us questions like, ‘Which celebrity would you most like to see at a Killing Kittens party?’.” It got attendees talking about their fantasies and preferences – a smooth segue into the less structured part of the evening, during which some participants “removed clothing”, says Emma. “It was just a really good, quite sexy interaction with other people.”

It was the kind of connection Emma had been craving. With her one housemate staying with family, and having lost her job in March, Emma has spent much of the pandemic physically isolated. “There were points at which it got quite lonely,” she says.

Though she’d attended sex parties in the past, Emma had only just joined Killing Kittens in November 2019. “I was a little nervous to get properly involved,” she says, and when the pandemic hit, she worried she’d missed her chance. Instead, she joined one of Killing Kittens’s singles chat groups and started making close friends, which made her feel comfortable enough to try a virtual party on for size.

During the pandemic, social isolation has also meant sexual isolation for both individuals and couples hoping to explore physical intimacy. While recreating the tactile experience of sex online isn’t straightforward, virtual experiences – from dirty-talk Zoom workshops to sex parties like the one Emma attended – have helped fill the intimacy-shaped void felt by so many. To a certain extent, at least. For attendees and organisers, online sexual encounters can ‘mimic’ in-person experiences and offer much-need psychological relief, but there’s no direct replacement for physical touch.

As they meet new people and date, many singles have acknowledged that 'digital intimacy' is important during the pandemic (Credit: Alamy)
As they meet new people and date, many singles have acknowledged that ‘digital intimacy’ is important during the pandemic (Credit: Alamy)

However, beyond just acting as a stand-in for sex during the pandemic, these virtual experiences may also be showing us what’s important in intimacy writ large – both while we’re in isolation and once we can touch each other again.

Discovering digital intimacy

Almost a year into the pandemic, many have found ways to date and form relationships online. Dating apps such as Bumble now let users indicate “virtual only” or “socially distanced” dating preferences. According to a Bumble representative, in-app video calls were up by 42% in May 2020 compared to pre-lockdown March.

But replicating a first date via video chat is a far cry from recreating sexual experiences over the web. Key elements – physical touch most prominently – don’t have a straightforward, online substitute.

Still, people are getting virtually intimate. In October, hard-seltzer company Basic surveyed 2,000 single under 35-year-olds in the US, and found that 58% had had virtual sex during the pandemic. Of those, 77% did so with someone they’d never had sex with in person. Per a Bumble survey of 5,000 UK singles, 32% said “digital intimacy” was important in a relationship “both during lockdown and when measures lifted”.

There’s a big sexual gratification in being able to watch and be watched – Emma

For Emma and others who’ve dabbled in online sexual encounters in the past year, things like virtual sex parties, educational Zoom workshops, remotely controlled sex toys and simply engaging in sex-positive communities have proven to be both sexually fulfilling and antidotes to physical intimacy. “There’s a big sexual gratification in being able to watch and be watched,” says Emma, who describes herself as an “exhibitionist”.

Plus, watching real couples have sex is different from watching pornography. It’s personal – and the connections Emma’s made in these sex-positive spaces are, too. She and other single attendees have formed “tight bonds”, she says, “because we’ve all shared this experience on a very similar level”.

In London, David runs the brick-and-mortar adult lifestyle club Le Boudoir. In October, when he started hosting virtual sex parties with other London lifestyle clubs such as Purple Mamba, he noticed first-time attendees behaving like they would in physical spaces. Instead of huddling in the corner, they’re initially hesitant to virtually chat with others, but “you can literally see them warm throughout the evening”, says David.

Like Killing Kittens, these events start with icebreakers and performances (i.e., erotic dancers), which help get people in the mood. The progression of the parties looks a lot like it would in real life. “That’s technology mimicking real life,” he adds.

Along with individuals, some couples are also exploring outlets for online sexual interaction (Credit: Alamy)
Along with individuals, some couples are also exploring outlets for online sexual interaction (Credit: Alamy)

The element of safety

The online nature of these events also expands attendee demographics, so they span more locations, age ranges and experience levels.

People attend Boudoir and Purple Mamba’s events from Israel, South Korea, Australia and the US. A party that starts on Saturday evening, UK time can roll into evening on the US’s East Coast and across America. Sayle has also noticed virtual events attracting younger attendees – not only because they’re more online and “that’s how they communicate”, says Sayle, but also because online events remove the financial barrier to showing up at a physical party. Online Killing Kittens parties cost £20 ($27), while in-person ones can cost £350 ($480).

Emma, who doesn’t live in a major city, likes that she doesn’t have to spend money on travelling to an event in London, which would include putting up for a hotel, meals and new clothes. “As a student, that’s quite nice,” she says.

Boudoir and Purple Mamba’s virtual sex parties now attract around 150 attendees on a given Saturday. About half are first timers. Sayle sees a similar split at Killing Kittens’ events. “A lot of [attendees] are totally new people who would never have thought about [attending a sex party] before,” says Sayle. There’s a “safety element” to showing up via video chat, she adds: “You can close the screen at any point.”

That’s exactly what made UK-based couple Matt, 31, and Emily, 29, feel comfortable about going to their first-ever sex party during the pandemic, with Boudoir and Purple Mamba, online. “You’re in your own house,” says Matt. “It’s the safety of it.” Though they would have likely gone to an in-person event eventually, “it would have taken longer,” says Emily.

Just because you’re separated by distance doesn’t mean the activity you’re doing… is somehow less than if it was in person – Megan Stubbs

So far, the online events have let them explore their sexuality and relationship. Everyone’s “different styles” come through, says Matt, which creates a real, shared experience with another couple – one they didn’t think they’d want to experience before the pandemic. They’ve since changed their minds. Virtual encounters have also helped Matt and Emily put language to their desires. Because they’ve had to clearly communicate with others remotely, they’ve learned certain terms that describe their preferences.

This fits with a trend Michigan-based sexologist Megan Stubbs has observed. “I see more avenues of communication being open. People are talking more and getting more specific about their needs.” Distance necessitates this. When you’re not in the same room as your sex partner(s), you can’t rely on body language and subtle cues. But, she adds, “Just because you’re separated by distance doesn’t mean the activity you’re doing… is somehow less than if it was in person.”

‘Touch deprivation’

Still, experts and people having virtual sex agree nothing can completely substitute for physical touch. As Sayle puts it, “You can’t recreate an orgy online.”

Virtual boudoir parties have drawn groups from around the world and across different demographics (Credit: Alamy)
Virtual boudoir parties have drawn groups from around the world and across different demographics (Credit: Alamy)

This is, in part, because of the cellular processes that take place when a person is touched. Tiffany Field, who heads the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine, explains that “moderate pressure touch” stimulates pressure receptors under the skin. “That sets off a chain reaction,” she says, that slows the nervous system. “The heart rate slows down, blood pressure slows, and brainwaves change in the direction of theta, which is a relaxation state.”

Levels of cortisol, the stress hormone that kills immune cells, also decrease when we’re touched, while natural killer cells (which kill bacteria, viral and cancer cells) increase, according to Field’s research, which specifically examines massage therapy. “It’s ironic, during this time when there’s a lot of touch deprivation going on,” she says, “that we don’t have the protection of the natural killer cells killing the viral cells.”

Based on her research of “moderate pressure touch,” Field says people living alone can still help stave off touch deprivation through “self-touch”. That even includes simple activities such as stretching and walking, which stimulate pressure receptors on the bottoms of our feet. Engaging in virtual sex surely falls into that category, if participants are willing to get active.

A deeper appreciation

Of these online-sexual-experience organisers and participants, all say they’ll likely continue with virtual experiences even when it’s safe to mingle with strangers. Digital intimacy offers something unique – the ability to stay at home but still engage in a fulfilling activity, with a geographically wider array of people, for minimal or zero cost.

In-person events, though, will likely boom. “Thousands of years of history of what happens post-pandemics and post-war show that people start shagging,” says Sayle. “It’s going to happen.”

The pandemic could also have another effect – it may make us all realise how touch-deprived we were to begin with. Before Covid-19, touch expert Field and colleagues were conducting a study in which they observed how much people were touching one another at airport departure gates. People were touching, says Field, only 4% of the time. Sixty-eight percent of the time, they were on their phones. Online platforms and social media were driving us physically apart pre-pandemic. Now, they’re facilitating people being together.

“I think what Covid has done has exacerbated [touch deprivation],” says Field. “Maybe [people] are beginning to appreciate that they’re missing the touch they did have.”

By: By Jessica Klein – BBC

The Last of Us on HBO: Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey join cast

Game of Thrones stars Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey have been cast in the HBO adaption of hit video game The Last Of Us.

They’re set to play main characters Joel and Ellie – who are tasked with escaping a pandemic in post-apocalyptic America.

Pascal is also currently starring in Star War series The Mandalorian and was in DC Comics film Wonder Woman 1984.

The Sony PlayStation franchise is being adapted by Chernobyl’s Craig Mazin alongside the game’s creator Neil Druckmann.

The game is set 20 years after the destruction of society and most of the population has been infected by a mind-controlling fungus that turns its hosts hostile and cannibalistic.

Its highly acclaimed sequel was also released last year, winning six awards at the Golden Joysticks, including best storytelling and game of the year – so there will be plenty of material to explore in the TV series.

Craig describes The Last of Us as a “breathtaking work of art” and told The Hollywood Reporter adapting it for TV has been a dream of his for years.

View original tweet on Twitter

In 2020, Newsbeat spoke to fans of the game, about their hopes for the show.

‘I hope it will be like The Witcher’

Having Neil Druckmann involved in writing the TV series gives 27-year-old Mat Ombler hope the show will live up to the critically-acclaimed game.

“That is a rarity when it comes to video game adaptations,” he says. 

“It’s normally done by someone who doesn’t really have that much knowledge or experience of the game – and as a result, it completely misses.”

Mat says attempts to bring blockbuster games like Resident Evil and Assassins Creed to the big screen are two examples of these “misses” – but he believes there have been some good ones recently.

“I’m hoping this will follow in the footsteps of The Witcher and show that when these things stick true to their original source material, you’ve got something that can make really great TV.”

Last Of Us 2
image captionThe video game’s sequel, The Last of Us 2, is due for release in May this year

But 23-year-old Chanté Goodman hopes the TV show gives viewers more than a re-telling of what they’ve already seen on their PlayStation.

“I’d prefer to see something that’s not in the games,” she tells Newsbeat. 

“I think it would be unfortunate to develop a story with just Joel and Ellie, just because the games have done such an incredible job with them.”

That being said, Chanté is really keen to see a scene from the game – where the lead characters meet a herd of giraffes who have made their home in a ruined US city – be recreated in the TV adaptation.

‘The Walking Dead makes zombie shows difficult’

The Last of Us isn’t about zombies in the traditional sense, but gamer Benjamin Last believes the show could fill the spot in TV schedules that The Walking Dead once held.

“It’s difficult to be a zombie show in a world post-Walking Dead,” the 29-year-old tells Newsbeat. 

“And I think there’s a real chance of this being that show – and offering something different.”

Ben says the game’s biggest strength is the relationship it depicts between the two main characters – something he believes HBO and the show’s creative team can translate to TV.

“I think they’ve got a strong footing with the people who made Chernobyl, which has the same atmosphere that I think The Last of Us should be portrayed in,” he says.

“Also HBO are very good at making character-driven shows and it’s really all about Joel and Ellie – that’s what drives The Last of Us.”

Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin
image captionGame creator Neil Druckmann (left) will work with Craig Mazin to bring The Last of Us to TV screens

The Last of Us has millions of fans HBO will be hoping to please with the TV adaptation. 

The game was first released in 2013 on the PlayStation 3 and later re-mastered for the PlayStation 4, selling more than 17 million copies across the two Sony consoles.

There are currently no casting details for The Last Of Us but both Chanté and Mat hope that Troy Baker, who voiced Joel in the original game, will get to play him in the HBO adaptation.

By Michael Baggs
Newsbeat reporter