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31 December

In the headlines

NHS chiefs think there is no need for new Covid restrictions, says The Times. Although the number of hospital patients testing positive is up 61% in a week, serious illness among the elderly has not risen significantly. Ghislaine Maxwell may try to reduce her sentence for sex trafficking by cutting a deal with US prosecutors, says the Daily Mail. Telling the “true story” behind the friendships Jeffrey Epstein had with the rich and famous – including Prince Andrew, Bill Clinton and Donald Trump – could be “her only chance of breathing free air again”. An Irishman has been arrested after drunkenly breaking into the presidential palace in Bucharest. The unidentified tourist mistook the 1,100-room palace for his hotel.



There’s nothing more precious than light  

“The history of humanity is about the quest for light,” says Simon Barnes in Tortoise. This is true of religion – “the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world” – but also in the most literal sense. Humans first lit fires as long as two million years ago, not just for warmth, but to see their enemies coming. The invention of lamps 70,000 years ago gave us the gift of time – more hours in the day to “sing, worship, feast, play and socialise”, to become a “different kind of species”. Street lamps shaped our cities: by 1588 Paris had a torch burning at every intersection; by 1816, when gas lighting came to Preston, “we had cities that glowed”.

Global update

We can all agree that “2021 was a weird one”, says Matthew Champion in Vice. But at least it made for good pictures. From the storming of the Capitol to ash-covered La Palma, here are some of the year’s best photographs.

On the way back

More than five million vinyl albums were bought in Britain in 2021, an 8% increase on 2020. The fashionably retro format now accounts for almost one in four album purchases, the highest proportion since the 1990s.

On the money

American business executives are clearly an itinerant bunch, says Bloomberg – they used the word “journey” on conference calls a whopping 3,091 times this year. Twenty years ago, it was said just once.

Eating in

Aldi’s £14 own-label champagne, Veuve Monsigny, is second only to Moët & Chandon for UK sales. But Lidl’s Veuve Delattre Brut, at just £12.50 a bottle, was singled out by Which? as the “great value pick” in its annual taste test. The consumer magazine’s best-tasting champagne was Waitrose’s £18 Blanc de Noirs Brut, which beat pricier brands such as Moët and Taittinger.


Quoted 31-12

“Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbours, and let every new year find you a better man.”

Benjamin Franklin

The great escape

At Nayara Tented Camp in Costa Rica, you can watch the sun rise over the jungle, with the smoking Arenal volcano in the background. This eco-retreat has safari-style tented rooms, hot-spring pools, an excellent wine bar and spectacular rainforest hiking on the doorstep. Look out for tree frogs, electric-blue morpho butterflies and the resident three-toed sloths. Doubles from £705 a night.