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22 December

In the headlines

Ukraine is “alive and kicking”, President Volodymyr Zelensky told the US Congress yesterday, as he urged lawmakers to continue providing his country with military aid. Joe Biden said America would stick with Ukraine for “as long as it takes”. NHS staff are to be offered a “fast-tracked” pay deal in a bid to avert more strikes, says The Daily Telegraph. A source close to Health Secretary Steve Barclay said he wanted to put extra cash in pay packets “at the earliest opportunity”. Beth Mead has become the first women’s footballer to win the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year award. The 27-year-old was top scorer and player of the tournament at Euro 2022, where the Lionesses won England’s first major football trophy since 1966.

Year in review

Sunlit uplands, or the abyss?

In June 1940, when France had surrendered to the Nazis and the British army had been evacuated from Dunkirk, Winston Churchill delivered a speech in which he imagined two futures for the world: “broad, sunlit uplands”, or “a new Dark Age”. These phrases are all too relevant for this “hinge year in history”, says Bret Stephens in The New York Times. Broad, sunlit uplands are the women of Iran “tearing off their hijabs the way the people of Berlin once tore down their wall”; Chinese protesters forcing an end to their regime’s “cruel and crazy” Covid lockdowns; and Emmanuel Macron’s victory over the fascistic Marine Le Pen in France. Broad, sunlit uplands are a lab-made nuclear fusion reaction creating more energy than it consumes, and “the lofting of a telescope that lets us peer far into the reaches of space”.


Can everyone please stop crying?

When did everyone become such cry-babies, asks Sheila Hancock in Prospect. Growing up in the 1940s, “being brave meant hiding your tears”. We kept that stiff upper lip through “bombing, separation, threat of invasion, hunger and death”. The only time I saw my mother cry was when Neville Chamberlain announced that Britain was at war – and that was the second war of her lifetime, “so the tears were understandable”. But now? Crying has become a “badge of honour”. Of course, it’s good that we are less inhibited than we once were. But if emotion is something “demanded of us”, it becomes “hollow and meaningless”.


Americans have a new favourite hobby, says The Economist: axe throwing. There are 324 “axe houses” across the country – up from just 16 in 2017 – serving 20,000 competitive throwers a week. The activity is also popular for team-building exercises, stag dos and “break-up parties”, where (mainly women) target pictures of their ex. “I get to throw sharp stuff into wood and drink beer with friends,” says Dean Cooper, a retired cop from Texas. “What’s not to like?”

On the way back

Boris Johnson, says The New European, if his “carefully thought-through attempt at a comeback” works out. The former PM recently flew out to Rupert Murdoch’s ranch in Montana, where he begged the media baron to get his newspapers behind him in May – the theory being that local election results could “make Rishi Sunak’s position untenable”. Murdoch “heard him out”, and the tycoon’s editors are now dreading “that they might soon get the order to back Johnson”.

On the money

Though there has been “much anxiety” about Amsterdam and Paris overtaking London on some business metrics, says Ian King in Sky News, Britain still enjoys a hefty lead over other European nations in the tech sector. UK tech companies raised £24bn this year, “more than their counterparts in France and Germany combined”. The industry is now worth $1trn in total, with the UK only the third country, after the US and China, to achieve this milestone.

Quirk of history

The Monopoly board is “hopelessly unrepresentative” of London’s geography, says The Times. It has just one street each for south of the river (Old Kent Road), the East End (Whitechapel Road) and the Square Mile (Fleet Street). Two of them – Mayfair and the Angel Islington – “aren’t streets at all”. But it’s hardly surprising. The layout was designed by “a Leeds-based board game manufacturer and his secretary after just one day in London in 1935”. They seem to have chosen Angel purely “because they stopped for tea there”.

Eating in

“Perpetual broths” – cooking liquids that simmer constantly for years, or even decades – are a centuries-old tradition in both French and Chinese cuisines, says Atlas Obscura. Used as a base for all kinds of dishes, or even served as a soup, these concoctions are periodically topped up with seasonal ingredients and “handed down from one generation to the next”. Legend tells of one pot, in Perpignan, southern France, which “had been bubbling since the 1400s”, finally meeting its demise in 1945 during World War II bombing raids.


She’s preparing “caviar snacks”, says Eater: a quick, “decidedly more chill” way to serve the fancy fish roe. TikTokers are raving about the fusion of “highbrow-lowbrow snacking”: some dunk crisps or crackers into crème fraiche before sprinkling the black spheres on top; others combine the fish eggs with mussels and load them onto Dorito chips. One influencer, @DZaslavsky, has racked up more than 10 million views for her videos highlighting the versatility of caviar, even using it to garnish ice cream.


quoted 22.12.22

“Show me a hero and I’ll write you a tragedy.”

F Scott Fitzgerald