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2-3 July

Behind the headlines

The truth about “basket case” Britain

“A corrosive and essentially false story of British economic failure is taking hold in the public mind,” says Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in The Daily Telegraph, amplified by endless gloomy headlines. Not least, he might have added, in the Telegraph itself, which a week ago announced: “Great Britain is decaying before our eyes”. Bloomberg takes a similar line (“Britain’s battered economy is sliding toward a breaking point”), as does Le Monde (“Brexit: Six years of a crumbling British economy”). “From across the pond,” says Joseph Sternberg in The Wall Street Journal, “Britain looks like a basket case.” So what’s the truth?


We mums should go on strike too

I had a total disaster the other morning, says Sarah Vine in the Daily Mail. Having lured my teenage son from his hormonal pit (“using a pain au chocolat as bait”), stuffed him into his suit, and driven him to school through horrendous traffic, I got a call from him three minutes later. School’s been cancelled, he said. The teachers were on strike, again. Apparently, there was an email I had missed. “How remiss of me.” After all, “it’s not like I have anything else to do apart from waiting to be told which of the many groups paid to provide the gold-standard services (ha!) my taxes help to fund has decided to take the sodding day off”.

Heroes and villains

Provincial nightclubs | Amazon | Bernie Ecclestone

The widespread closure of provincial nightclubs is depriving towns of cultural and economic hubs, reckons Lisa Nandy. I totally agree, says Ed Cumming in The Daily Telegraph. “The Bad Provincial Nightclub is a cornerstone of British identity” and a training ground for “vital adult skills”: how to lie about your age, how to manage limited resources for drinks, food and transport, and how to deal with people who look “a bit fighty”.

Great escape

In among the city-break flats and weekend cottages of Airbnb is the company’s “OMG!” category, filled with all the weirdest houses they can find. Now, the firm is doubling down with a $10m OMG! Fund, which will hand out cash to 100 Airbnb hosts willing to build the “craziest and most unique” property ideas. From now until 22 July, Airbnb will accept submissions from anyone with an idea of how $100,000 could transform their property as a spectacular destination. Submit your own crazy idea here.


quoted 2.7 dudley

“I have never in my life learned anything from any man who agreed with me.”

American lawyer Dudley Field Malone


Britain is not America

In 1927, Tory MP Lt Col Reginald Applin addressed the Commons, “the old fighting spirit surging through his veins”, as he took on his “deadliest foe” yet: the Americanisation of his fellow Britons. “They go to see American stars,” he raged. “They talk America, think America, and dream America.” I’ve been thinking about Applin, says Dominic Sandbrook in UnHerd, ever since the overturning of Roe v Wade sent millions of Brits into a spiral of “existential horror”. “You think what you see in America couldn’t happen here?” tweeted Labour MP Stella Creasy. Yes, I do, actually. The most recent YouGov polling shows that just two – “two!” – in 100 people in the UK think abortion should be illegal.

Quirk of history

When the Beatles first performed on The Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964 – kicking off their takeover of American music – not everyone was impressed. One columnist, Paul Jones, complained that there was “nothing attractive about the looks or the sounds” of the group. It was clear, he said, that their fame had little to do with their musical talents, “for the sounds emanating from their mouths were anything but melodic”. The only thing distinguishing them from other “inferior rock ‘n’ roll groups”, Jones concluded, was their “mop-like hair-dos”. He wasn’t the only one who had a bad first impression of the Beatles, says The Guardian. The legendary record producer Quincy Jones said that when he first saw the band he thought they were “the worst musicians in the world”. Paul McCartney, he said, was “the worst bass player I ever heard”. As for Ringo? “Don’t even talk about it.”


quoted 3.7

“Learn what is to be taken seriously and laugh at the rest.”

Herman Hesse


I’m not sure about Emma Thompson’s new film Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, says Eileen Jones in Jacobin. The story follows Nancy, a middle-aged widow who hires 20-something sex worker Leo to provide her some “erotic satisfaction”. The script is a disaster. It’s like someone has used an automatic text generator, plugging in a series of topical terms like “sex positivity”, “unhealthy body image” and “middle-aged woman feeling invisible”. Neither character feels remotely real – especially Leo. He is a “sex saint”: handsome, understanding, and so good at his job he never has to take Viagra even with 82-year-old clients. In a thoroughly predictable ending, Nancy and Leo both leave their encounter with greater understanding of life. “Each has helped the other to a maddeningly equal degree.” Yawn.


The townhouse

This early Victorian house in south London has six bedrooms set across four storeys and a kitchen that opens up into the richly verdant garden. Outside there is an artist’s studio, apple, quince and fig trees, and a pond. Wandsworth Road station is a seven-minute walk. £2.4m.

The hideaway

This six-bedroom villa is nestled just off the road to Amizmiz, a small village south of Marrakech at the foot of the Atlas Mountains. There are multiple terraces, a hammam, and large Andalusian gardens with a fountain, heated pool and palm trees. £2.4m.