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17 April

In the headlines

Almost 100 civilians have been killed in Sudan and hundreds more injured as clashes between rival military groups entered a third day. The conflict, which began in the capital Khartoum, is rooted in a power struggle between the country’s military leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his deputy Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo. Elon Musk’s SpaceX is due to launch the most powerful rocket ever developed. The unmanned, 400-ft-tall Starship spacecraft is scheduled to blast off from Texas at around 1pm and complete an almost-full orbit of the Earth, before performing a controlled descent into the Pacific. Watch it here. The Brecon Beacons are being renamed because the word “beacon” is considered out of step with the fight against climate change. The national park will now be known by its original Welsh name, Bannau Brycheiniog (pronounced “ban-aye bruch-ay-nee-og”).

Love etc

Mary Quant’s relationship with her husband, Alexander Plunket Greene, got off to a weird start, says Lisa Armstrong in The Daily Telegraph. When the fashion designer first met him, aged 23, “he was carrying a trumpet in one hand, a film script in the other”. He then turned up at a date wearing a dinner jacket but no shirt. “Too broke,” Quant, who died last week, explained. “He painted on studs and a bow tie.” But ultimately she couldn’t resist – “especially when he later shaved her pubic hair into a heart shape”.

On the way out

London’s schools are “disappearing”, says Aditya Chakrabortty in The Guardian. Last week, Lambeth announced that a secondary school founded in 1685 was closing; four primaries in Camden have shut since 2019; Southwark council says 16 of its schools are at risk of closure. It’s not because they’re bad, but because there are no longer “enough children to fill them”. Since 2001, there has been a 10% drop in households with at least one school-age child in Lambeth, and an 11% decrease in Southwark. Hackney has 589 fewer kids in reception today than in 2014. Families can simply no longer afford to buy or rent in a city chock full of “shiny private tower blocks” built for wealthy, young, childless professionals.

Quirk of history

Embalming isn’t a widespread funeral practice, says Bloomberg, except in America, where around 50% of the soon-to-be-deceased opt for the preservative procedure. The custom began in the Civil War, when soldiers’ bodies had to be shipped hundreds of miles back home for burial without any refrigeration. And after Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, his cadaver was embalmed for its “farewell tour” around the country – introducing tens of thousands of Americans to the concept.

Gone viral

There’s a “weird niche of beverage videos” circulating on TikTok, says Amy McCarthy in Eater: “recipes” for spicing up water. Creators have racked up more than 131 million views on clips recommending an array of syrups, powders and flavourings to turn a boring glass of H20 into “birthday-cake water”, “unicorn cotton candy water” or “banana-split water”. Users, somewhat dubiously, suggest the enhanced drinks are a good weight-loss hack, creating “something that tastes like a dessert but doesn’t have any calories”.


To the FT:

Alison Jamieson writes of an Italian ice-cream vendor offering customers a taster. It put me in mind of one of Tom Lehrer’s most memorable lyrics. In his 1953 paean to an under-appreciated profession The Old Dope Peddler Lehrer sings: “He gives the kids free samples / because he knows full well / that today’s young innocent faces / will be tomorrow’s clientele.”

In 2012, the US rapper 2 Chainz requested permission to sample the song. Lehrer’s response: “As sole copyright owner of The Old Dope Peddler, I grant you motherf***ers permission to do this. Please give my regards to Mr Chainz, or may I call him 2?”

Marc Hudson, Staffordshire


It’s extreme athlete Beatriz Flamini, who emerged on Friday after spending 500 days alone in a cave in Granada. The 50-year-old Spaniard began her stay in the 230ft-deep cavern on 21 November 2021, three months before Russia invaded Ukraine. She had no communication with the outside world but was monitored by scientists to see how the human mind and body handle extreme solitude. She spent most of her time exercising, drawing, and knitting woolly hats, and described the endeavour as an “excellent, unbeatable” experience. “I could go another 500 days.”


quoted 17.4.23

“One hour in the bath is worth four hours of sleep.”