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10-11 December

Heroes and villains

Damien Lewis | Rachel Reeves | The BBC

Damian Lewis illustrates an annoying tendency among posh people to disparage their own class, says Gareth Roberts in The Spectator. Lewis, star of the ITV drama A Spy Among Friends about the Philby-era security services, has praised scriptwriter Alex Cary – “that’s Lucius Alexander Plantagenet Cary, hereditary viscount of Falkland, by the way” – for inventing a female, working-class character to see through what Lewis calls the “white, upper-class dinosaurs” of MI6.


The Norland nanny: “Mary Poppins meets James Bond”

With their uniform of “tweed blazers, white gloves, beige pinafores and brown bowler hats”, the nannies-in-training at Norland College “cut incongruous figures on the modern landscape”, says Saskia Solomon in The New York Times. At £15,000 a term, the 130-year-old college’s four-year nannying course is more expensive than an undergraduate degree. But for career prospects, it’s a no-brainer – on average, seven job offers await each graduating “Norlander”. And just a few years in, most can expect to fetch six-figure salaries looking after the offspring of “bankers, royals and celebrities”.


The forthcoming film Cocaine Bear “does what it says on the tin”, says Vice, depicting a black bear on a coke-fuelled rampage in the state of Georgia. It’s (very loosely) based on a true story: in 1985, drug smuggler Andrew Thornton dropped duffel bags containing around 130 kilos of cocaine out of a plane into Chattahoochee National Forest. “Wearing night-vision goggles and Gucci loafers”, he then parachuted out to retrieve it – but ended up falling to his death. The cocaine was discovered three months later next to a dead bear, which had chowed down so much of the stash that it suffered a fatal overdose. The animal was stuffed, named “Pablo Escobear”, and is now on display wearing a Santa hat at a shopping mall in Kentucky.

Quirk of history

The last time Britain was ravaged by strike action, says David Young in The Daily Telegraph, I was in Margaret Thatcher’s government. We solved it by “insisting on a secret vote before any strike could take place”. This was because walk-outs were always initiated by the “very left-wing leaders of the trade unions”, who unashamedly wanted to bring down the government. They tended to get their way when strike votes took place in public – but once it became a secret ballot, union members could be honest about what they really wanted. Almost immediately, the number of days lost to strike action “dropped to a 40-year low”. A problem that had plagued the government for decades had gone – “never, we thought, to reappear”.


Quoted de Gaulle 10.12.22

“How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?”

French president Charles de Gaulle


The masterpiece the critics missed

Every decade, the British Film Institute and Sight and Sound magazine ask hundreds of leading critics and other industry bods to name their top 10 films. Usually it’s predictable fare: Citizen Kane came first every time between 1962 and 2002. But this year, says Jessica Winter in The New Yorker, the winner was a movie most cinemagoers will never have heard of: Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles. Made in 1975 by Belgian director Chantal Akerman, it’s an “uncompromising” affair: three-and-a-half hours in the life of a single mother (and part-time sex worker) called Jeanne. There are no close-ups and no music. Each scene consists of a single, fixed shot of actress Delphine Seyrig carrying out various mundane tasks: washing dishes, making a bed, peeling potatoes.

The great escape

A single-car train that seats 22 people seems an “unlikely safari vehicle”, says BBC Travel, but Zimbabwe’s 80km Elephant Express offers an “utterly unique” animal-spotting experience. Rather than searching for the great beasts in a 4×4 or on foot, passengers happen upon them randomly, “adding a sense of serendipity to the wonder”. Zimbabwe’s railways were originally built to connect the landlocked country’s rich mines and farmland with coastal ports in neighbouring Mozambique and South Africa. This particular stretch of track was laid in 1904, meaning there’s not an animal anywhere which “remembers a landscape without the trains”. It’s not unusual to meet lions “napping on the sun-baked rails or using them for cover when hunting on the plains”. Book your stay at Imvelo Safari Lodges to access this unique trip here.


After debut author Chelsea Banning tweeted her disappointment that nobody showed up for her book signing, several famous authors responded with stories of their own dispiriting experiences. “At my first Salem’s Lot signing,” said Stephen King, “I had one customer. A fat kid who said, ‘Hey bud, do you know where there’s some Nazi books?’” Margaret Atwood said at one event nobody came “except a guy who wanted to buy some Scotch tape and thought I was the help”. Jonathan Coe, author of The Rotters’ Club, recounted a crime writers’ festival where his appearance clashed with a talk by Inspector Morse creator Colin Dexter. “Only one person showed up for me,” he tweeted. “We chatted for a while and I told him how glad I was that he’d come. He said, ‘Actually I’m Ian Rankin and I was supposed to be introducing you’.”


The apartment

This four-bedroom flat is set across two floors of a Grade II listed Georgian house directly opposite Hampton Court Palace, on the edge of Bushy Park. Its period features include original fireplaces, antique pine units and a slate floor. The house backs onto, and enjoys views over, The Royal Paddocks. Hampton Court Village and Kingston are within walking distance. £1,100,000.

The country house

This three-bedroom cottage on the banks of the river Stour near Colchester features a large sitting room with an open fireplace, a master bedroom with a balcony and half an acre of gardens. A private mooring allows easy access to the water for rowing and paddle boarding. Manningtree is 2.5 miles away, with trains to London Liverpool Street that take just under an hour. £885,000.



quoted 10.12.22 Diller

“Most children threaten at times to run away from home. This is the only thing that keeps some parents going.”

American comedian Phyllis Diller