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21 February

In the headlines

Vladimir Putin has raged against the West in his annual state-of-the-nation address, blaming Nato for his invasion of Ukraine and suspending Russia’s participation in a long-running arms reduction treaty with the US. Joe Biden will make his own speech in Warsaw later today. The largest-ever trial of the four-day week, under which employees receive the same salary but work one day fewer, has been a hit. Fifty-six of the 61 British companies and organisations that took part in the six-month study chose to continue the arrangement, after seeing boosts in revenue and worker productivity. For the second time in 18 months, Michael Gove has gone clubbing solo in Aberdeen, says The Sun. The “revelling up minister”, who told locals he was in town to visit his mum, was filmed at the 1980s-themed Club Tropicana whirling a woman around to Donna Summer’s I Feel Love.


Women are snubbing pristine designer handbags in favour of “visibly worn-in styles” with scratches and stains, says The Wall Street Journal. According to luxury resellers, demand for bags in “fair” condition – meaning “heavily worn” – has surged; one site says searches have jumped 13% in six months. As a New York stylist explains, a beaten-up bag helps you “look like you’re not trying too hard… you just look cooler”.


After years of pretty much all technology becoming entirely controllable via a touch screen, says The Atlantic, buttons are making a comeback. The car website Jalopnik heaped praise on Ford’s new SUV for having so many switches and knobs that the car’s “infotainment system” was basically redundant. The cheapest models of the Amazon Kindle are “touch-screen slabs”, but more expensive versions have page-turning buttons; top-of-the-line Apple Watches feature an additional button on the side. Alas, techies reckon this is probably just a phase – having a device with lots of manual controls is cool now “because there just aren’t that many out there”.

Love etc

In 1914, Albert Einstein got his wife Mileva Maric to agree to some stringent conditions in a bid to salvage their rocky marriage, says Shaun Usher in Lists of Note. “You will make sure that I will receive my three meals regularly in my room,” the physicist wrote, and “you will forego my sitting at home with you”. His demands concluded: “you will stop talking to me… [and] leave my bedroom or study immediately without protest if I request it”. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the couple separated a few months later.

On the money

Jimmy Carter, who has begun receiving hospice care, never tried to make a fortune after leaving the White House in 1981, says The Washington Post. He moved back to the two-bedroom house in Georgia where he had lived before entering politics. It’s worth about $167,000, “less than the value of the armoured Secret Service vehicles parked outside”.

Eating in

Europe’s first printed cookbook was nothing if not blunt, says Patrick Kidd in The Times. The 15th-century De Honesta Voluptate et Valetudine, by Bartolomeo Sacchi, has a recipe for eel pie that ends: “When it is finally cooked, serve it to your enemies for it has nothing good in it.” All credit to him. “You don’t get such honesty from Nigella.”


They’re seaside saunas made out of old horseboxes, which have become something of a craze. For £12.50 a pop, the Beach Box Spa in Brighton (pictured) will let you swelter at 110C for 45 minutes while someone gently beats you with birch branch whisks. Small sweatboxes are so popular that there are now around 50 of them from Cornwall to Aberdeen, with dozens more on the way.


quoted 21.2.23

“By working faithfully eight hours a day you may eventually get to be boss and work 12 hours a day.”

Robert Frost