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21-22 May

Long reads shortened

Britain’s “ancestral disdain” for business

Britain’s media is obsessed with political gossip, says Adrian Wooldridge in Bloomberg. Newspapers splash endless revelations about Partygate and Beergate as if they’re “matters of war and peace”. Columnists constantly muse about whether Johnson will survive and who could replace him. Yet most of this is “small change at best and irrelevant at worst”. And it crowds out the stuff that really matters: business news. Big companies like Amazon, Google and Tesla are “changing the world at breakneck speed”, and new technologies such as artificial intelligence and gene therapy “will change it even faster”. Giant new firms from Asia will in time shift the balance of global power from the West to the East. Yet in the British press, business news is “relegated to the back of the paper along with sport and horoscopes”.


quoted mizner 21.5.22

“Be kind to everyone on the way up; you’ll meet the same people on the way down.”

American playwright Wilson Mizner


Forget Sally Rooney – you’re better off with Austen

The new TV adaptation of Sally Rooney’s Conversations with Friends is “over-long and emotionally laborious”, says John Maier in UnHerd. But it’s a damn sight better than the book. The 31-year-old Irish author might be a millennial literary icon, but her novels are crammed full of “flat, affectless prose”. In her other book-turned-telly hit, Normal People, the dialogue sounds “as if it is being translated from a foreign language off-the-cuff and by someone with a slightly limited vocabulary in English”. Sentences can be wildly obvious. “I feel like our friendship would be a lot easier if certain things were different,” muses one character; “I don’t think it’s a bad thing that you’re feeling bad about this,” says another. And the word “nice” abounds. Al dente pasta is “nice”, the university therapist is “nice”, Christmas with grandma is “nice”. During one sex scene, the heroine says: “I want this so much.” The hero replies: “It’s really nice to hear you say that.”


quoted Kipling 21.5.22

“Take everything you like seriously, except yourselves.”

Rudyard Kipling

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Britain’s strictest headmistress

It’s housed in “one of those dismal, Sixties-built office blocks” overlooking a rat-infested railway embankment, says Ian Gallagher in The Mail on Sunday. But Michaela Community School in Wembley is considered “one of the best schools in the world”. Opened in 2014, it draws pupils from “deprived estates” and achieves grades “up there with the best in the land”: around half its GCSEs are Grade 7 (an A in old money), and last year 82% of its A-level students secured places at Russell Group universities.

Quirk of history

The fascists who hated pasta

Italy’s Futurists, a 1930s movement celebrating all things mechanical and modern (including fascism), were fiercely opposed to pasta, says Josh Mcloughlin in Engelsberg Ideas. At a dinner in Milan in 1930, which served such forward-thinking dishes as “ice cream on the moon” and “roast lamb in lion sauce”, Futurism’s founder Filippo Tommaso Marinetti declared: “Futurist cooking will be free of the old obsession with volume and weight and will have as one of its principles the abolition of pasta.” The Manifesto of Futurist Cooking, published the following month, labelled pasta “an absurd Italian gastronomic religion”.

Love etc

After two years of dating upended by Covid, nearly 70% of singles are questioning what they want romantically, says Roisin Lanigan in i-D. The technical term for it is “hesidating”. While not as extreme as FODA – Fear Of Dating Again – hesidating captures a post-pandemic ambivalence towards relationships. In fact, some millennials are so reluctant to date they’ve taken to platonically marrying their best friends instead. “Sounds simpler, tbh.”

Inside politics

Some Tories think they’d be better off losing the next election, says James Forsyth in The Times, so their party can “refresh” itself with a few years in opposition. They should beware: in the likely event of a Labour-led coalition forming our next government, the smaller parties will demand – and most likely get – electoral reform to change the voting system. That could lock the Conservatives out of office “for a generation”. Under the Lib Dems’ preferred model, “single transferrable vote”, the Tories would only have won two majorities in the postwar era. “Margaret Thatcher would never have been able to govern on her own and the last election would have seen the Tories 18 shy of a majority.” It is an “existential threat” for the party.


All signal and no substance

Five miles down the road from where I live in Connecticut is Darien, says Kat Rosenfield in UnHerd. It’s a leafy East Coast town regularly ranked on lists of America’s richest communities, with a median household income of $243,750. It’s a pretty homogenous place: the black population is less than 1%. But at the height of the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, “a sea of white people in designer sunglasses” took to the streets. They chanted things like “No justice, no peace!” before gathering politely in a local park to listen to the main speaker: a black woman who had travelled up from Brooklyn just for the occasion.


The castle

Scotland’s famous Carbisdale Castle was built in the early 1900s for the Duchess of Sutherland. It has 19 bedrooms, 19 bathrooms and 20 acres of land. It’s also, apparently, haunted by several ghosts, including a woman called Betty and some 17th-century soldiers. “You never know,” says Metro, “they might be really nice to have around.” £1.2m.

The pied-a-terre

This two-bedroom apartment is on the first floor of an Edwardian mansion block in Dalston. It has sash windows, pine floorboards and a contemporary kitchen. There’s also access to a roof terrace, a barbecue area and secure bicycle storage. Dalston Kingsland station is a five-minute walk away. £595,000.