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1-2 April

Behind the headlines

Her best role in years

What’s usually so exciting about seeing celebrities in court, says Naomi Fry in The New Yorker, is the promise of relatability. Their “perfectly made-up” faces are covered, for once, with “mascara tear streaks”, proving famous people can be brought low just like the rest of us. But Gwyneth Paltrow’s trial this week – in which she was awarded $1 in damages after being found not liable for a ski crash in 2016 – was gripping for precisely the opposite reason. The Oscar-winner “unabashedly leaned into every stereotype” about herself, delivering lines that could have been pulled straight from The White Lotus. Everything from her “well-cut garments by leading designers” to her bottled sparkling water screamed Hollywood opulence. At a time when most celebs are obsessed with appearing “of-the-people”, there’s something refreshing about Paltrow unapologetically flaunting her status. Her performance on the stand was her “best role in years”.


Last Sunday, I went to St Bartholomew the Great church in the City of London, to hear a sermon by my friend who’s the rector there, says Charlotte Ivers in The Sunday Times. He isn’t one of those groovy vicars who “plays embarrassing rock music and tells you Jesus is a bit like Instagram”. St Bartholomew’s is old school, with “bells, smells and choral anthems in Latin and traditional English”. But the place was packed, with people of “all ages, ethnicities, classes and backgrounds”. It’s something of a “modern parable”. All sorts of organisations are “desperately seeking new ways” to reach younger, more diverse customers, but all too often that takes the form of “vicars in designer trainers”, say, or insipid podcasts fronted by former Love Island contestants. And yet people still flock to the traditional – St Barts on a Sunday morning, or decades-old radio programmes like The Archers and Desert Island Discs. Perhaps young customers are just like the old ones: “if you build something good, they will come.”

Tomorrow’s world

I asked ChatGPT to come up with some “unique ways to end a letter or email”, says Shaun Usher in Letters of Note, and replies varied from the “genuinely great and useful”, to the hilarious and downright terrible. Suggested “positive” sign-offs included: “With sunny smiles”, “In caffeinated spirit”, “With a sprinkle of stardust”, and “Until we type again”; among “angry” creations were: “With a heavy sigh”, “Irate and irked”, “Feeling wronged”, and “In a fit of pique”. The AI also had recommendations for job-seeking (“Ready to excel”); reconciling (“Together in healing”) and romantic (“Yours under the moonlight”).


quoted 1.4.23

“A liberal is a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel.”

Robert Frost

Quirk of history

It is always startling to go to Paris and be reminded that the French Revolution is a “celebrated event of which the French are proud”, says Daniel Finkelstein in The Times. Yet not only was it “horrific”, but it also failed. Instead of “liberty, equality or fraternity”, it produced “oppression, murder, war and dictatorship”. At Nantes, after revolutionaries drowned 2,000 captives in the Loire, the agent of the Committee of Public Safety ranted that this was “not enough killing” and there was a need to “butcher children without hesitation”.

In Bordeaux, a woman was beheaded for weeping at her husband’s execution. She was made to lie for several hours under the blade of the guillotine, as blood from the previous decapitation dripped upon her, before finally she too was killed. When the mob finally came for the great revolutionary Madame Roland, she looked up at the Statue of Liberty in the Place de la Révolution and cried: “Oh Liberty, what crimes are committed in your name.” What crimes indeed.



Yesterday, we wrongly attributed the lines “The trees are coming into leaf/ Like something almost being said” to Thomas Hardy. They are, of course, by the great Philip Larkin. We apologise for the mistake.


The country house

This four-bedroom thatched cottage is nestled on the outskirts of Rugby in Warwickshire. Its 2,800 sq ft interior includes an elm-panelled entrance hall with oak beams, a light-flooded kitchen, and a large reception room with a hand-crafted rosemary tile fireplace. It also has half an acre of gardens and a terrace under the shade of fig and apricot trees. Rugby town is a 10-minute drive, with trains to London Euston in under an hour. £975,000.

The townhouse

This three-bedroom flat on top of a converted Victorian pub is in the Mortlake conservation area, southwest London. The building dates to 1894, and contains a spectacular stained-glass window and a private, slate-paved courtyard. It also has a stunning roof terrace, offering uninterrupted views across the Thames. Nearby Barnes Village has an array of shops and cafes, and Mortlake train station, with regular services to Waterloo, is a five-minute walk. £2.3m.



quoted Taylor 1.4.23

“The problem with people who have no vices is that generally you can be pretty sure they’re going to have some pretty annoying virtues.”

Elizabeth Taylor