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Behind the headlines

Should Britain pay reparations?

A petition from the Jamaican government last year asked for up to £7bn. It was dismissed by the British High Commission on the grounds that those directly harmed by slavery are no longer alive. Some activists have demanded an equivalent to the £20m – £17bn in today’s money – with which Britain compensated slaveowners when it outlawed the practice throughout the Empire in 1833. It’s certainly a “cost-free” exercise for those asking for the cash, says Douglas Murray in The Times: even if the former colonialists don’t pay, the question distracts from domestic corruption and misgovernance. Reparations are “one of the great shakedown attempts of our time”.


Ben Stokes, England’s new cricket captain, will hope for a better start in the job than Chris Cowdrey in 1988, says The Upshot. Cowdrey’s first match was against the West Indies, then the best team in the world. “I went for the toss wearing my whites and England blazer,” he recalls. Viv Richards, the Windies captain, “came out wearing a Bob Marley t-shirt, surfing shorts and flip flops”. As is tradition, Cowdrey began reading out his teamsheet. “I got no further than four names when Viv said: ‘Play who you want, man. Ain’t gonna make any difference.’” It didn’t. The West Indies won by a whopping 10 wickets, “and Cowdrey never played for England again”.


THE TOWNHOUSE Padbury Court is a handsome Georgian house nestled down a cobbled street off Brick Lane in east London. Arranged over four light-filled floors, with three bedrooms, an internal courtyard garden and a plethora of historical features, the property forms one end of a delightful 18th-century terrace, and extends to over 1,500 ft internally. The original fabric of the house has been lovingly restored by the current owners, using a palette of powdery tones to create a warm, welcoming home. £1.5m.


The narcissism of modern mythology

For many people, “we live not in a time of reason but in an age of mythology”, says James Marriott in The Times. Witchcraft is undergoing an “improbable” revival: there are more than a million self-described witches in America, up from only a few thousand in the early 1990s. More and more people believe in aliens. Among the “educated young”, tarot and astrology are “unprecedentedly fashionable”. The self-help philosophy of the conservative intellectual Jordan Peterson is imbued with the language of mythological archetypes: “the virtuous hero”, “the great father” and so on. In films and books, too, there is a growing preference for “grandiose fantasies of human power”: the highest-grossing movies are about superheroes; emotionally complex literary fiction has become unfashionable compared to political dystopias and “quasi-mythological fantasies”.


The strange origins of America’s abortion fight

Far from being a deep and ancient cultural divide, says Jon Ronson in the podcast Things Fell Apart, America’s fight over abortion dates back just a few decades. In the 1970s, Christian evangelicals weren’t remotely interested in the issue, viewing it as a niche Catholic concern. It was an aspiring Hollywood director called Frank Schaeffer, the “errant son” of a revered Christian intellectual, who changed that. Tasked by his father with directing a religious documentary, Frank insisted they include two episodes attacking abortion. He felt strongly about the issue because he had kept – and loved – a baby he never wanted. “It was very personal,” he says. “It has nothing to do with the philosophical argument.”


Does sadness spur creativity?

When Leonard Cohen’s dad died, the then nine-year-old wrote a poem, sliced open his father’s favourite bowtie, inserted his elegy, and buried it in the garden. Echoes of this ghoulish act reverberated through Cohen’s six-decade career, says Susan Cain in LitHub, so much so that record label bosses joked about giving razor blades away with his albums. But it’s evidence of a peculiar symbiosis: the “mysterious force” which ties together melancholy and creativity. Statistically, sad people tend to be more artistic. A study of nearly 600 top creative types found that 25% had lost at least one parent by age 10. By age 20, the figure was 45%.


quoted 7.5.22 Mae West

“It’s better to be looked over than overlooked.”

Mae West

Gone viral

YouTubers in Japan have attracted tens of thousands of subscribers with videos where they run around Tokyo pretending to be in a video game. “The movements, the interactions, the sound effects – everything is just perfect,” says writer Juan Buis on Twitter. Watch the full videos here.


THE COUNTRY HOUSE Springfield House sits at the foot of Holybourne Down in East Hampshire, in just under two acres of gardens complete with a pond, paddock and grass tennis court. The family home, which dates back to 1814, has three reception rooms, six bedrooms and an open-plan studio space. London is an hour-and-a-half drive and direct trains to Waterloo from nearby Alton take just over an hour. £1.95m.


A punishingly precise party planner

When Anna Wintour took over running the Met Gala in 1995, says Tate Delloye in MailOnline, it was a sleepy fundraising dinner at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Anyone who could pony up $1,000 for a table could go. Now, “no money in the world could guarantee a ticket”. Paris Hilton, for example, has never been invited, and the Kardashians were blackballed until 2013. “You could have had a billion dollars, you were not going to get that ticket,” says former Met planner Stephanie Winston Wolkoff. “There had to be a reason for you to be in that room”. And for the past 30 years, the only reason good enough was that Wintour wanted you there.


quoted 7.5.22 Homer Simpson

“Here’s to alcohol: the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.”

Homer Simpson