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1 August

In the headlines

British house prices have recorded the largest annual drop in 14 years. With rising mortgage costs putting increasing pressure on the market, the average value of a home last month was £260,828, 3.8% less than July 2022. A Moscow skyscraper has been hit by a drone for the second day in a row, in what Russia has described as a Ukrainian attack. The high-rise, where the ministry of economic development is based, has had a small section of its glass façade destroyed, despite the air defences around the Russian capital. The best time to send a work email is between 3pm and 6pm on Sunday, says The Times. According to an analysis of 8.7 million messages, those sent on Sunday afternoon have the highest average open rate, at 94%. However, doing so “could leave you with few friends in the office”.


There aren’t many “fairytale finishes” in professional sport, says Andrew Miller in ESPN CricInfo, but England cricketer Stuart Broad seems to have managed it. The 37-year-old announced on Saturday, midway through the final Ashes Test, that the game would be his last. On the concluding day yesterday, he smashed the last ball he faced as a batsman for six, then with his final ball as a bowler took the match-winning wicket. The 2-2 series draw means Australia retain the Ashes, as they won the last battle Down Under. But it was still Broad’s day.

On the money

If I were prime minister, says William Hague in The Times, I’d be in total despair over HS2. The independent Infrastructure and Projects Authority has just quietly graded the high-speed rail line “red” – which means, in their words, that “successful delivery of the project appears to be unachievable”. And its cost has ballooned to an astonishing £87bn, equivalent to “more than £3,000 for every household in the country”. Dominic Cummings tried to convince Boris Johnson to scrap the whole thing back in 2019, “when there was still time to do so”. How right he was.

Love etc

If you’re thinking of buying your spouse some flowers as an anniversary gift, says ABC News, see if you can top Lee Wilson, a farmer from Kansas. To surprise his wife Renee on their 50th wedding anniversary, the amorous agriculturalist presented her with a field of 1.2 million sunflowers – her favourite. He secretly planted the 80-acre display for his high school sweetheart back in May, with the help of his son. “It made me feel very special,” said Renee. “It couldn’t have been a more perfect anniversary gift.” 🌻😍


Prince William has worn plumes of ostrich feathers, bows and ribbons, and even “a cap with an embroidered leek”, says Caroline Davies in The Guardian. So what’s his problem with kilts? The Prince of Wales’s apparent aversion to the Highland attire has somewhat improbably become the topic of heated discussion. Scottish columnist Alan Cochrane says it’s “William’s duty to wear a kilt north of the Highland line”; menswear writer Stephen Doig says the garb would help the Prince look more “fashionable”. Joe Little, managing editor of Majesty magazine, has bizarrely stressed that while Wills may not have worn the kilt in public as an adult, “he may have done so in private”.


To The Sunday Times:Decca Aitkenhead’s article (“The real problem with men? They’re rubbish at asking questions”) rang so true. I have recently spent time with five men for various reasons. I now know all about them and their families. Not one has asked anything about me. Yesterday a man who has been a sailing companion for six weeks tried to explain an offence of fraud to me. He has no clue that I am a criminal lawyer. He has never asked. Yet all of them believe we get on well. Not one has noticed that I am the one making conversation all the time.

Sarah Rogers, London


It’s a bear at a Chinese zoo, which people are speculating may in fact be a member of staff in a costume. Visitor numbers to Hangzhou Zoo have rocketed by 30% after footage of Angela the Malayan sun bear and its saggy bottom went viral on the social media site Weibo. Commenters picked up on the creature’s un-ursine posture, its dismal attempt at catching snacks thrown into the enclosure, and the way it sat down on a rock in a resigned fashion.


Quoted 01-08-23

“Nothing so fortifies a friendship as a belief on the part of one friend that he is superior to the other.”

Honoré de Balzac