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14 February

In the headlines

Millions of households will see their council tax bill rise by 5% this April, as three-quarters of local authorities opt for the maximum possible increase. Households in mid-tier band D will face a £99 annual hike. Rishi Sunak has revealed that RAF Typhoon jets are at “24/7 readiness” to shoot down Chinese spy balloons, says the Daily Mail. In the US, White House officials say Beijing has been running a “high-altitude balloon programme” to spy on sensitive military sites. Lilt is being given a new name. Owner Coca-Cola says the 50-year-old soft drink, touted for its “totally tropical taste”, will now be known as Fanta Pineapple and Grapefruit. “I don’t think I want to live in a world without Lilt in it,” wrote one dismayed fan on Twitter. “What’s the point any more?”


New York Fashion Week has had its “first viral moment”, says Vogue: animalistic facial prosthetics, courtesy of New York couturier Collina Strada. Models were morphed into everything from a rhino to a sheep and rabbit for the label’s “Please Don’t Eat My Friends” show, which creative director Hillary Taymour hopes will encourage audiences to “be vegetarian, eat your broccoli, you know, all that stuff”.

Love etc

This Valentine’s Day, why not use some old terms of endearment to woo your partner, says Susie Dent in the I newspaper. Back in the 16th century, “bagpudding” – literally a pudding boiled in a bag – was used with affection, as was “sucket”, meaning candied fruit sweetmeat. Another favourite was “cabbage”: the Oxford English Dictionary’s first record of the pet name, from 1722, reads: “Ha! My little cabbage sprout! One sweet kiss to make it up, and I’ll be gone.” For something a little spicier, think of crustaceans. As one character says to another in William Pett Ridge’s 1895 novel Minor Dialogues: “I expect you’re a saucy young prawn.”


When the King took off his shoes at a mosque on Brick Lane last week to reveal a hole in his sock, says Judith Woods in The Daily Telegraph, it provided a fabulous insight into our national character. Did “the very visible shortcomings of the royal hosiery” leave us Brits humiliated or ashamed? On the contrary – it made us feel “uniquely British”. Like his mother, who famously kept her cereal in Tupperware boxes, King Charles is clearly one of us. “Minding the pennies so we can spend the pounds on pomp and circumstance and crowns, chocca with looted gemstones. That’s true patriotism.”


The NFL spent two years and $800,000 preparing the field for Sunday night’s Super Bowl, says sportswriter Joe Pompliano on Twitter. The grass was grown at a local sod farm in Phoenix and installed two weeks prior to the big night. It was then rolled out of the stadium into the sunshine each morning, before going back under cover overnight. And after all that, the playing surface was awful: the players slid and slipped all game, with one calling it “the worst field I’ve ever played on”.

On the money

A letter to The Economist:


I read Bagehot’s plea for British politicians to be more adequately funded. It brought to mind a quip from long ago by the late John Arlott on Any Questions: “So many people want to be MPs that the law of supply and demand suggests they need not be paid anything at all.” The audience applauded loud and long.


J Fyles


It’s a box at the Palais Garnier Opera House in Paris, where one lucky couple will get to spend a night this summer. The 19th-century theatre inspired Gaston Leroux to write The Phantom of the Opera. To mark the end of an unprecedented 35-year Broadway run for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical adaptation, Airbnb will refurbish the Box of Honour into a double bedroom and let it out on 16 July for just €37. Hopefuls can try to secure their stay, which also includes dinner during the performance and a tour of the theatre, at 5pm on 1 March here. Bonne chance! 👻


quoted 14.2.23

“It is only when you see people looking ridiculous that you realise just how much you love them.”

Agatha Christie