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Heroes and villains

Indian air force officers, Lying Down Champion and Tesco

Giles Keating, who has managed the enviable feat of heating a stately home for almost nothing. The 50-room Athelhampton House in Dorset (pictured), which was mentioned in the Domesday book and inspired Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd, used to cost £50,000 a year to power. Since buying the property in 2019, Keating has installed 400 solar panels across the estate, along with a network of heat pumps. The system now produces excess energy, which is stored in a collection of Tesla batteries.

Bungling Indian air force officers, who nearly started a war with Pakistan. The three soldiers accidentally launched a BrahMos cruise missile into their neighbour’s territory at three times the speed of sound. It wasn’t armed, and only damaged a wall. But the officers were still fired – unlike, thankfully, the 300-plus nuclear weapons India and Pakistan have between them.

Matthew Parris, for completing a clandestine swim across the Thames. The 73-year-old columnist dived in under cover of darkness, he says in The Times, to avoid alerting the Port of London Authority to his breaking of a local by-law. Night swimming has aesthetic advantages, too: he floated among “towers of light at Canary Wharf and strings of streetlights on either side reflecting in the river; thousands in riverside flats, all asleep”.

Zarko Pejanovic, Montenegro’s 12th annual Lying Down Champion. The 38-year-old managed to stay horizontal for 60 straight hours, beating all rivals. Appropriately enough, he claimed afterwards that he didn’t even break a sweat. “It wasn’t difficult,” he told local media. “I didn’t even warm up.”

Tesco, for making its fruit off-limits to vegans. The supermarket has been covering oranges and lemons with a wax called shellac to keep them fresh, but Shellac includes resin secreted by bugs – making it verboten for vegan shoppers. The supermarket really is “taking the pith”, says The Guardian.

A Lebanese man who held up a bank to withdraw his own money. The country’s financial woes mean that citizens can take out a maximum of $400 a month. But Bassam al-Sheikh Hussein, who needed the cash for his aged father’s medical bills, didn’t want to play ball: he went to his bank with a rifle, took six hostages, and after a six-hour siege secured $35,000 of his savings. The 42-year-old has been spared any criminal charges and is already planning future visits: “Maybe next time,” he tells Vice, “I would use grenades.”