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24-25 September


“We’ve ended up prisoners in our own lands”

Iran is being rocked by protests in which at least 26 people have died, says Yasmin Alibhai-Brown in the I newspaper. The trigger was Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman arrested by “morality police” last week for not wearing her hijab properly. She died in custody, after allegedly being beaten and tortured. It’s a depressing reminder that the autocrats in charge of most Muslim-majority countries “do not give a damn about the human rights of their people”. Iran follows China in Amnesty International’s list of the top state killers, with Egypt, Iraq and Saudi Arabia rounding out the top five.


quoted 24-09-22

“For most normal people, politics is a distant, occasionally irritating fog.”

Tony Blair


How anxiety became a status symbol

“The masters of the universe are not ok,” says James Marriott in The Times. Far from the “slick, cold-blooded übermenschen of popular myth”, top professionals are really “insecure overachievers” driven to succeed by “doubt, self-loathing and fear of failure”. Corporate bigwigs confess to “desolating anxieties” that can only be assuaged by the compulsive pursuit of validation at work. One former banker coolly notes that his profession is “well suited to someone who doesn’t have a good sense of self”. In Silicon Valley, doctors report an “epidemic of stress and anxiety” among top execs. Among the richest students in Seoul, “premature curvature of the spine” has doubled in a decade.


The most dangerous moment since World War Two

“There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen.” If Lenin actually uttered these words, says Richard Haass in Foreign Affairs, he should have added: there are decades when centuries happen. We’re living through one now. With Vladimir Putin willing to do anything to extend Russia’s sphere of influence and China bent on “regional and potentially global supremacy”, there’s been a “sharp decline” in the world order. This has made it impossible for the great powers to work together despite a host of new challenges (climate change, pandemics, nuclear proliferation), especially as the US – more bitterly divided that at any time since the 19th century – is less willing and able to lead “on the international stage”.


quoted 24-09-22

“The British will let you get away with almost anything if you make them laugh.”

William Waldegrave


Last Saturday, the actor Tom Hardy quietly entered a jiu-jitsu championship in Milton Keynes, beat all opponents and returned home victorious. What a “note perfect” way for a celebrity to debut a hobby, says Stuart Heritage in The Guardian. Hardy, 45, could have made a documentary about his love of martial arts, or “hyped the competition on social media” and flooded the venue with his fans. “But no.” He simply turned up to a secondary school sports hall on a Saturday morning “and went about kicking everyone’s butt into smithereens”.


Suddenly the Democrats are missing Trump

Donald Trump has long claimed credit for “creating” Ron DeSantis, the “cunning, ruthless, whip-smart” Florida governor, says Piers Morgan in the New York Post. But now, the two are “heading for a deadly showdown”. Last week, DeSantis staged a publicity stunt: shipping 50 Venezuelan migrants to Martha’s Vineyard – a holiday hotspot for wealthy white liberals – so northern Democrats get a taste of the surging illegal immigration in southern states. After the avalanche of media coverage that followed, Republicans are warming up to him as a “better-focused, more competent” version of Trump. He offers the same Make America Great Again ideology “without any of the crazier baggage”. Not only that, but he’s just 44 years old: 32 years younger than Trump and 35 younger than Joe Biden.

Nice work if you can get it

The $4trn quest for a better you

Wellness is at once “an idealised state of being” and “pure marketing gold”, says Meghan Cox Gurdon in The Wall Street Journal. In her book The Gospel of Wellness, Rina Raphael sets out to find what drives the $4.4trn industry. The ambiguity of the term means “virtually anything” can be attached to it, from turmeric tablets to detox drinks and mindfulness apps. These products may promise to maximise personal excellence, but most of them fail to deliver. “Natural” products are not necessarily safer (they may just rot faster), and no woman needs “gluten-free shampoo” unless she’s planning to drink the stuff. “We would be wise on occasion to consult our brains.”


This summer, I watched Nick Cave and his band play a London festival, says Dorian Lynskey in UnHerd. “It was the best I’d ever seen them.” I only realised why after reading his memoir Faith, Hope and Carnage, in which he discusses the death of his 15-year-old son Arthur seven years ago. Art has given him a means of “connecting with the suffering of others in order to feel less alone”. When people ask him: “Does it ever get better?” he replies: “Yes. We become different. We become better.” The loss of his son was “an annihilation of the self”, but also an opportunity to be remade. He focuses less on the world’s hardships, and more on its “humility, mercy and mystery”. A more emotional and communal artist simply has more to give their audience. “His suffering was an opportunity for resurrection.”

Quirk of history

On 3 September 1967, Sweden switched from driving on the left to driving on the right, says The Guardian. “Höger-dag”, or “Right Day”, was four years in the planning. A small army of construction workers toiled overnight to make the final alterations to the country’s 350,000 street signs, and on hand to help drivers were 2,000 soldiers, 6,000 civil police, 50,000 school police, and 150,000 volunteers. The change itself took place at 5am. It prompted complete chaos in the centre of Stockholm, with vehicles “getting hopelessly entangled” as they tried to switch over. But the rest of the day went smoothly, with only “the occasional jam and a number of minor accidents”.


Forget Succession: what we want is more feel-good classics

Earlier this month, the comedy-drama series Doc Martin began its 10th and final run, says Ben Lawrence in The Daily Telegraph. Sure, it seems fusty: the show stars Martin Clunes as a cantankerous GP who does little more than assist the injury-prone residents of Cornwall’s Port Isaac. And yet more than three million of us tuned in. Compare that to Succession, the much-lauded drama about a nasty media dynasty. The first episode of the latest series pulled in a measly 1.4 million viewers in America – “less than half of what Doc Martin achieved on our tiny island”.


For about 300 years, says Smithsonian Magazine, the Tree of Ténéré was thought to be “the most isolated tree on the planet”. The remote acacia, in Niger’s Sahara desert, was the only tree for about 250 miles – making it a useful landmark for travellers and caravans passing through. Alas, in 1973 the Tree of Ténéré came to an unfortunate end: a (probably drunk) driver smashed into it, snapping the trunk. The loneliest tree is now thought to be a Sitka spruce on Campbell Island in the South Pacific – its nearest arboreal neighbour is on the Auckland Islands, 137 miles away.



THE TOWNHOUSE This beautiful three-bedroom Victorian house is located on Hampton Road in east London’s Woodgrange Conservation Area. The property boasts an airy living room with high ceilings, ornate cornicing, and a large, shuttered bay window. All three bedrooms overlook the garden, with the largest retaining authentic floorboards and an original marble fireplace. The kitchen features a solid oak island and has access to the orangery and garden. Forest Gate and Manor Park stations are each less than a 10-minute walk and both are on the Elizabeth Line. £1.3m.

THE BOLTHOLE Situated in the heart of Bakewell in the Peak District, this Grade II listed cottage was originally part of a water mill and has been beautifully converted for modern living. The space is bright and airy with large sash windows and incorporates both original and contemporary features, such as early Georgian floorboards and underfloor heating. The master suite occupies the entire top floor with views of the River Wye. The property is a 16-minute drive from Grindleford and Matlock stations, with regular services to Sheffield allowing easy links to London. £350,000.