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23-24 April


The Germans are betraying Ukraine

If you think lies about cake in Downing Street constitute a “serious matter of state”, says Wolfgang Münchau in EuroIntelligence, have a look at Germany. Chancellor Olaf Scholz has been “caught red-handed” lying about weapons deliveries to Ukraine. On Tuesday, the German leader proudly announced he’d agreed with Kyiv a list of crucial weapons to be shipped out, and that Germany would pay for them. Ukrainian officials demurred, pointing out that Scholz’s list included none of the weapons it actually needed. When German tabloid Bild got hold of a copy, they found the list had shrunk to half its original length, and all heavy weaponry had been removed “on orders from Scholz”.


The rise and rise of book stylists

In late 2019, the supermodel and Kardashian sister Kendall Jenner was photographed reading Chelsea Hodson’s essay collection, Tonight I’m Someone Else. Jenner’s copy was well-thumbed; the 26-year-old had put sticky notes on several pages. She’s not the only supermodel who moonlights as a bookworm, says Nick Haramis in The New York Times. In 2020, model Kaia Gerber, 20, started an Instagram book club for her 7.7 million followers. And at Milan Fashion Week in 2019, Gigi Hadid was spotted between shows clutching a copy of Albert Camus’s L’Etranger.


Roman’s royal chateau

Last week, French authorities seized Roman Abramovich’s Riviera villa, Chateau de la Croe. Given the oligarch spent £125m doing the place up, this must come as a blow, says Dominic Midgely in the Daily Mail. When the Chelsea owner first visited the property in 2001 it was nothing but a “burnt-out shell”. A fire had ruined the chateau in 1970, and it had been empty ever since. But Abramovich thought it had potential, so he paid the £15m asking price and then did four years’ worth of renovations. Now the 12-bedroom home has a basement replete with gym and cinema, “and a 15-metre pool takes pride of place on the roof”.


quoted 24.4

“Be content to remember that those who can make omelettes properly can do nothing else.”

Hilaire Belloc

On the money

Dog salons are booming

When Stuart Simons visited Florida in 2004, all he noticed were the dog groomers, says Zoe Williams in The Guardian. They were on every street corner, and since we “always follow the US”, he reasoned, they were bound to turn up in the UK before long. He was right. Simons now runs the luxury pet parlour Tails of St Leonards, and business is booming. And no wonder: there are more than 12 million dogs in Britain, and owners are spending more money on their pets than ever. In 2018, Brits shelled out £1.7bn on pet care and grooming. By 2020, that number had risen to £3.8bn.


Pop stars fighting for an encore

Being a pop star starts out terribly exciting, says Nick Duerden in The Guardian. But for many singers, the spotlight moves on too quickly. When The Boomtown Rats disbanded after eight years together, singer Bob Geldof remembers slinking back home and drawing the curtains. “I thought: ‘That’s it? It’s over? Had the best years of my life already passed?’ I was 30. What a brutal business pop music is.” Geldof, 70, found a new career with Live Aid, but for decades, all he wanted was to return to music. “In my passport, my profession is listed as musician, not saint.”


quoted gaskell 23.4.22

“Sometimes one likes foolish people for their folly better than wise people for their wisdom.”

Elizabeth Gaskell

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Behind the headlines

The last thing we need is more graduates

I understand why Tony Blair loves universities, says Esther Walker in the I newspaper. “After all, he went to St John’s College, Oxford, grew his hair, played in a band and met his wife.” But his delusion that they’re a “magical cure-all for societal ills” is ridiculous. He’s now saying 70% of school leavers should get a degree, up from the 50% target he set as prime minister. (The current figure is 53%.) But I’m doubtful that many of Britain’s 130 universities are much like St John’s. “Most years, even Oxford and Cambridge produce an awful lot of bookshop assistants and zero-hours contract TV interns.”

Long reads shortened

The blood-drenched fortunes of Nazi heirs

Germany is lauded for its “culture of remembrance and contrition” around the Second World War, says David de Jong in The New York Times. Yet the dark history of its powerful automotive dynasties tends to be “happily ignored”. Take Günther Quandt and his son Herbert, both members of the Nazi Party who exploited slave labour in their factories and bought companies from Jews forced to sell up at far below market value. Today, two of the family’s heirs have a net worth of roughly $38bn and control BMW, Mini and Rolls-Royce.

Staying young

If you’re dithering about getting a nose job, try a “liquid rhinoplasty” instead, says The Cut. The nonsurgical procedure involves injecting filler into the nose to reshape it and smooth out bumps. It only takes 15 minutes and, if you don’t like it, the results fade after six months anyway. Gen Zs approve. On TikTok, before-and-after videos of the procedure, with the hashtag #liquidrhinoplasty, have racked up 2.6 billion views.

Tomorrow’s world

A Californian start-up claims to have made artificial meat out of thin air, says Ben Spencer in The Sunday Times. Air Protein has taken an idea proposed decades ago in a “long-forgotten” Nasa report and made it a reality: in a carbon-negative, fermentation-like process, microbes are fed substances including carbon dioxide and nitrogen to create a protein-rich flour that can then be given the shape and texture of meat. The company’s fake chicken is tasty and suitably moist, according to co-founder Lisa Dyson. “The good thing about starting with chicken,” she says, “is that everything tastes like chicken.”


A Ukrainian millionaire asked his country’s military to bomb his mansion after he saw on a home webcam that it had been seized by Russian troops. “There were 12 military vehicles on my territory, including rocket launchers and grenades,” said Andrey Stavnitser, CEO of a Ukrainian IT company, on Good Morning Britain. “They were basically starting to shoot at Kyiv from my house.” So Stavnitser called Ukraine’s armed forces and gave them his blessing to raze his home, and the Russian troops, to the ground. “Thankfully they were destroyed.”


I don’t know why everyone is so down on Prince Harry, says Giles Coren in The Times. “Of course he had to check that the Queen is protected.” We’ve all seen those public information films about looking in on the elderly. If Harry doesn’t put his head round the door once in a while, Her Majesty could be left undiscovered, lying dead in front of a cold bar heater, half-eaten by corgis, for months. And, of course, Harry must protect the Queen from herself. “Capricious and quixotic old thing that she is,” she could easily, if left unattended, end up “marrying a gold-digger, falling out with her family, making a massive tit of herself on the world stage and giving up her royal titles for a better life in America”. I’m just thankful Harry got there in the nick of time.

The great escape

A luxury “space lounge” being launched by Florida firm Space Perspective in 2024 will allow guests to sip cocktails at the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere. The plush Neptune capsule will be kitted out with reclining seats, mood lighting and even Wi-Fi signal, says the New York Post. Reaching 20 miles above Earth, the pod allows passengers panoramic views out of five-foot-high windows. The altitude may be lower than rival spaceflights offered by Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin, which reach 50 miles and 62 miles respectively, but it costs a bargain $125,000 for a six-hour trip, compared to Virgin’s $450,000.

Gone viral

A Twitter account called Second Mentions tracks the most inventive ways journalists avoid using the same word twice. Examples can be silly: The Times calling tea “the bitter brown infusion”, or The Guardian describing a fox who ran on to a football pitch as “the four-legged interloper”. But they’re also poetic: the Daily Mirror once called the moon “the tide-changing rock”, and The Sun described a sex doll as a “lust vessel”. Avoiding repetition has always been tricky for writers, says The New Yorker. In the first book of Paradise Lost, John Milton calls Satan at least seven different things, from the “infernal Serpent” to the “superiour Fiend”.


The pied-a-terre

This two-bedroom flat is on a wide, tree-lined avenue in north London. The sitting room has high ceilings, big windows and a chimneypiece. Outside, the west-facing garden has a bay tree and gets the sun from late morning until mid afternoon. £900,000.

The hideaway

This cottage in Wasdale Valley is slap bang in the middle of the Lake District National Park and has views of Scafell Pike. There are five bedrooms, three acres of garden, and an adjoining annex which is currently a successful holiday let. The nearby village, Nether Wasdale, is a 15-minute drive. £725,000.