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12-13 February

Tomorrow’s world

Stand by for the next tech revolution

There’s an old video clip doing the rounds in tech circles, says Charlie Warzel in The Atlantic. It’s 1995, and David Letterman is interviewing Bill Gates. “What about this internet thing?” the talk show host asks, to guffaws from the audience. “What the hell is that, exactly?” Gates “gamely” tries to explain the “wonders of the web”. But Letterman isn’t having it. Noting that baseball games would soon be broadcast over the internet, he jokes: “Does radio ring a bell?”

Inside politics

For all Boris Johnson’s faults, he can’t be singled out for his boozing, says David Harding in The Independent. “Alcohol and politics go together like gin and tonic.” Thomas Jefferson ended his eight-year spell as president in 1809 with a wine bill of more than $10,000 – nearly a quarter of a million dollars today. Russia’s Boris Yeltsin was once too drunk to get off a plane when visiting Ireland; the phrase “circling over Shannon” became a euphemism for being hammered. “And if all that makes you thirst for leaders who do not drink, three of the most well-known teetotalers in history are Hitler, Franco and Trump.”


Sloanes in exile

Forty years ago, Ann Barr and Peter York wrote The Official Sloane Ranger Handbook, lifting the curtain on the boarding-schooled, country-housed “Carolines and Henrys”, whose universe revolved around Sloane Square in Chelsea. Very little has changed, says Rachel Johnson in Air Mail. The “sensible names”, like Fenella and Fiona, haven’t changed. The professions – Sotheby’s, Christie’s, “something vague in finance” – are the same. And the book’s 20 rules for decorating – “Furniture Must Look Old”; “The Downstairs Rooms Must Say Warrior And Landowner” – still hold fast. “NOT ONE RULE NEEDS TO CHANGE,” the architect Ben Pentreath recently emailed York enthusiastically.


quoted 12.2

“The people who live in a golden age usually go around complaining how yellow everything looks.”

American poet Randall Jarrell


How envy is poisoning modern life

In today’s world, everyone wants to be envied, says James Marriott in The Times. Calling someone “enviable” is considered a compliment. We talk about our glitzy holidays, expensive purchases and picture-perfect children “as loudly as we can”. Online, we no longer communicate so much as “advertise at each other as PR agents for our personal brands”. And we do all this to make our friends, family and colleagues envious. The cocktails, the cars, the expensive clothes. They don’t just show that we’re having a great time – they “prove our superiority”. Envy has, somehow, become the predominant “social emotion” of our time.


A “Faustian bargain” with China

Eileen Gu is “a giant projection of Chinese soft power”, says Brook Larmer in The Economist’s 1843 magazine. The 18-year-old skier won a gold medal for China this week in Beijing – a huge deal for a superpower that’s won only 13 Winter Olympic golds in its history. She is now a national sensation: her face is on every billboard and magazine cover, and her millions of Chinese fans briefly crashed the social media platform Weibo as they celebrated her victory.


Hugh Grant was often dismissed as “essentially playing himself” in rom-coms, says Scott Meslow in Bustle. Yet his charming-but-awkward characters were “worlds away” from his real personality, which was cagey and self-assured. Grant would rehearse relentlessly for his roles, down to every last hesitation and stutter. One of his very best performances came in 1995, after he was caught with a sex worker in his car. It was a tabloid scandal “that nearly derailed his career in its infancy”. Two weeks later, he apologised on an American chat show, mimicking the “stammering, contrite, lovably awkward Brit” he played in films – right down to the tactical use of the word “bollocks”. The audience lapped it right up – and Grant’s career was back on track.

Watch the full apology here.


Quoted 13.2

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”

Blaise Pascal, 17th-century French mathematician

The great escape

Mustique’s bohemian neighbour

For years, the Caribbean island of Mustique was “a devil-may-care playground for the charming and the charmed”, says Mark Ellwood in Air Mail. David Bowie had a house there; Princess Margaret partied naked on its beaches. “But it’s on the slide.” Stuffy newcomers have arrived, turning Mustique into a “dry-clean-only-bikini” sort of holiday spot. This was once somewhere where, “at the end of a party, people used to take the wrong cars, and you’d sort it out the next day”, says one former resident. “Now, God forbid, security would be on you with a letter of complaint.”


The country house

Set in nine acres of gardens and paddocks near the fashionable town of Petworth in West Sussex, Gorehill House has spectacular views of the South Downs. Built in 1872 by architect Richard Norman Shaw, it has nine bedrooms, spacious living areas, and plenty of outbuildings. Chichester and the coast are both a 30-minute drive away. £5m.

The townhouse

This Georgian house is on one of the oldest streets in Chelsea, dating to 1566. It once sat alongside a celebrated 18th-century porcelain factory – builders found antique pottery beneath it during recent renovations. Set across five floors, it has four bedrooms, a separate studio, a gym and a courtyard garden. The Kings Road, River Thames and Battersea Park are all a short walk away. £6.59m.