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21 December

In the headlines

“Rejoice! Xmas is looking safe,” says the Daily Mail: it’s “almost certain” that no new Covid restrictions will come in before Christmas. Boris Johnson said yesterday he would keep an eye on omicron hospitalisation data rather than act immediately. The decision followed a testy two-hour Cabinet meeting in which ministers including Chancellor Rishi Sunak rejected an immediate clampdown. A “circuit-breaker” after Christmas is still on the cards, says The Times, with 28 December “pencilled in” as a start date. A 326-million-year-old fossil of a millipede the length of a small car has been found on a Northumberland beach. Scientists believe the creature could have weighed 110lb and been about 9ft long. 

Comment of the day


Cheer up, lefties – life’s not that bad

The left has become addicted to “worry porn”, says Freddie deBoer in his Substack newsletter. Even with omicron, the pandemic is essentially under control – thanks to “remarkably effective” vaccines and soon-to-be-released antiviral drugs, the “vast, vast majority” of the world will survive it. Yet the left is still freaking out. One widely read recent piece in The Atlantic was headlined “I’m starting to give up on post-pandemic life”; another in Vox was titled “The world as we know it is ending”. And this “catastrophising” – which is also a feature of the left’s coverage of Donald Trump – always carries with it “the quiet, throbbing need for the bad dream to come true”. Covid has already been terrible, but liberals “seem desperately to want it to be worse”.


Prince Albert saved the royal family 

Prince Albert only lived to 42, says Henry Oliver in UnHerd, but in his short life he transformed the monarchy and Britain itself. When he married his first cousin, Queen Victoria, in 1840, the royal household was “still roasting 12 large joints of meat a day” and the monarchy was “on the brink of republicanism”. Albert quickly tamed and modernised it – in 1843 he drove through the streets of Birmingham, side by side with the radical mayor, being cheered by republicans. As chancellor of Cambridge, he introduced courses in natural sciences alongside the traditional maths and classics. And he helped create a swathe of museums in London, including the V&A and the Natural History Museum.



Gone viral

The funeral procession for an ice-cream seller in Camberwell, south London – with a fleet of chiming Mr Whippy vans following the cortege – has gone viral. The send-off for Hasan Dervish, 62, prompted Twitter users to retell their ice-cream man stories. Eliza Loveheart recalled one who had a fling with a woman on her street: “Least subtle affair ever. We all knew what it meant when Mr Whippy was parked outside.” 

On the money

During lockdown, a Californian TikToker swapped a simple hairpin for a pair of pink earrings with someone online. Since then, 30-year-old Demi Skipper has successfully “traded up” all the way to a two-bedroom house in Tennessee. She used websites such as Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace, which allow users to swap goods without money changing hands. In just four trades she had acquired a snowboard, and after 18 months and 28 trades she swapped a trailer for an $80,000 house.


Day tickets laced with hemp oil are being sold by Berlin’s public transport operator. Made from edible paper, the €8.80 (£7.50) tickets supposedly have a calming effect when eaten. “This way you can travel hassle-free around Berlin all day, then simply swallow your Christmas stress along with your ticket,” the company says.

Quirks of history

The world’s first text message was sent on 3 December, 1992, by Vodafone software developer Neil Papworth to a colleague. It read: “Merry Christmas.”


Quoted 21-12

“Adventure is just bad planning.”

Polar explorer Roald Amundsen

Inside politics

Chile has elected the youngest president in its history. Socialist Gabriel Boric, 35, beat the far-right candidate by 10 points. Boric is heavily tattooed and a big Taylor Swift fan – he owns the singer’s merchandise, has sung her songs on Instagram Live and once posed with a picture of her face Photoshopped onto Jesus’s body. 

Snapshot answer

It’s Tiger Woods’s son, Charlie. The 12-year-old joined his father on the golf course over the weekend at the PNC Championship in Florida. The pair finished second, even though Woods, 45, is still recovering from a car accident in February that nearly cost him his right leg. Father and son share many mannerisms when playing, as this touching compilation shows.