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5-6 February

Behind the headlines

Guess who’s really helping the Russians

When it comes to Russia’s aggressive manoeuvring on Ukraine, “Britain stands out”, says Edward Lucas in The Times. Unlike our “soggy” European partners, we have bolstered troop numbers in Estonia, sent plentiful arms to Ukraine and threatened Moscow’s oligarchs with sanctions. Yet beneath this “bombast” lies an uncomfortable truth: Britain stands out as much for “aiding and abetting” the Russian regime as it does for pushing back against it.


quoted plato 5.2

“One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.”



Pam and Tommy’s eight minutes of fame

You can see why Disney+ have made a biopic about Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee, says Tom Nicholson in Esquire. When the pair first met at a New Year’s Eve party in 1994, they were already massive celebrities: he was the 32-year-old drummer for Motley Crüe, she was the 27-year-old Baywatch bombshell. And the first thing Lee did – despite having a girlfriend at the time – was lick Anderson’s face “from chin to temple”. The following February, after a whirlwind four-day romance, they were married barefoot on the beach. “The groom wore shorts; the bride wore a


The novel that shocked Victorian England

When Salford University slapped a trigger warning on Jane Eyre last month, people were up in arms, says Jo Waugh in The Conversation. But labelling Jane Eyre as a “dangerous text” is nothing new. When Charlotte Brontë’s novel was first published in 1847, a whole range of critics warned teenage girls against it. The novelist William Thackeray’s daughter Anny had to read it in secret. Even Brontë’s biographer Elizabeth Gaskell barred her eldest daughter from Jane Eyre until she had turned 20.


Hope quoted 5.2

“You know you’re getting old when the candles cost as much as the cake.”

Bob Hope

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Inside politics

If you’re not a Tory, it has been pure bliss watching Boris Johnson and his cronies become a laughing stock, says Andy Beckett in The Guardian. “But are we laughing too much?” Tory governments often suffer “humiliating meltdowns”, but they are rarely fatal to the party. In 1990 Margaret Thatcher’s reign ended in tears. Five years later her successor, John Major, was forced to resign as Conservative leader and run again for the top job to silence the “bastards” in his cabinet.

David Cameron resigned in 2016 after failing to stop Brexit; Theresa May quit in 2019 after failing to do much at all. Yet none of these episodes led to the Conservatives losing office. In fact, the 1992 and 2019 elections – each following “particularly protracted periods of Tory upheaval” – returned the party its largest total votes of the past half century. “If you’re hoping that they really are doomed this time, it’s going to be an anxious wait.”

Book it

Francis Bacon: Man and Beast, Royal Academy, London, until April 17, £22

The new Francis Bacon exhibition at the Royal Academy is “magnificent and properly disturbing”, says Tim Adams in The Guardian. “It will take you on safari.” Nightmarish paintings of chimpanzees remind you of Bacon’s visits to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). And “his lovers on display like animals in zoo cages” are reflective of his sadomasochistic relationships and late-night Soho escapades. “Bacon’s animal instincts rarely separated lust from violence,” a notion best shown in a room of bull-fighting paintings – like boxing, the artist once observed, the sport is a “marvellous aperitif for sex”.

Long reads shortened

The “green lairds” buying up Scotland

With “dense timber forests, wind-raked moors” and a ruined castle, Kildrummy is the quintessential Scottish Highlands estate, says Andrew Marshall in Reuters. Its 5,500 acres have long been used for shooting – the old game books contain “handwritten records of the thousands of grouse, deer, pheasant and duck” that used to be shot there each year. But not any more. In 2020 Kildrummy was bought by Christopher and Camille Bently, a Californian couple who have banned shooting and plan to “rewild” the estate. “There’s been too long a history of abuse on this land,” says Christopher Bently. “It’s just got to stop.”


The hideaway

“Nowhere is cooler than the Mont Blanc base camp,” says The Times. Alpine air and outdoor exercise “are the perfect tonic after two years of lockdowns”. This five-bedroom, five-bathroom French chalet is perched above the peaceful village of Le Coupeau, with family-friendly Les Houches only an eight-minute drive down the mountain. It has a cinema room, gym, sauna, large terraces and mountain views. Chamonix is 15 minutes away. €2.3m.

The townhouse

This Grade II listed home lies on a quiet street in the heart of Deal’s old town, a short stroll from both the seafront and the High Street. Once a local beer shop, The Deal Lugger was built in 1820 and is named after the boats that operated from the nearby shingle beach. The three-bedroom house has been sensitively restored, retaining its original features but with modern additions such as the bifold doors leading out to the sunny courtyard. Trains from Deal to London run at least once an hour. £725,000.