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31 May

In the headlines

EU leaders have agreed to ban more than two-thirds of Russian oil imports. The move cuts a “huge source of financing” for Moscow’s “war machine”, tweeted European Council chief Charles Michel. Since the invasion of Ukraine, the bloc’s 27 member states have paid Russia a whopping €30bn for crude oil supplies. The half-term holiday exodus has sent UK airports into meltdown, says Metro. Staff shortages and cancelled flights at airports including Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester and Bristol have forced families to sleep on terminal floors and queue for up to eight hours. “Wish we weren’t here.” For the first time in 28 years, Britain is home to more than 1,000 corgis. The Queen’s favourite dogs were classified as vulnerable in 2014 but have since made a triumphant comeback, partly thanks to their supporting role in The Crown.



The last jubilee of our lifetime?

There have been eight jubilees in British royal history, says Dominic Sandbrook in UnHerd, “and the story has always been the same”. Before the big event “everybody predicts a humiliating fiasco”. Then at the last minute “millions of strange people come crawling out from beneath their rocks”, Union Jacks in hand, and have an absolute blast. The first was George III’s golden jubilee in 1809. It all went tremendously well but proved “something of a last hurrah” for the king himself. He went mad a year later, and “spent the rest of his days endlessly weeping and tying and untying handkerchiefs” – which, incidentally, is how most Guardian columnists will be spending this weekend.


Afghanistan will never forgive us

“All the cameras have left for another war” is the devastating line from a poem by the Polish writer Wislawa Szymborska, says Christina Lamb in The Sunday Times. I was reminded of it recently in a restaurant in the Ukrainian city of Dnipro when I ran into three fellow journalists. All long-time Afghan hands, we were still “in shock” at Britain’s bungled evacuation last summer. When the Taliban seized Kabul on August 15, “Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab, then foreign secretary, and Sir Philip Barton, the Foreign Office’s top civil servant, were all on holiday”. As his department struggled to implement a poorly planned evacuation, Barton did not think it necessary to return until 11 days later.


This video of some woodcocks “booty bopping” has delighted Twitter. No one knows for certain why the creatures perform the rhythmic shuffle, says bird expert Kaeli Swift, but it might be to “agitate worms” and make them easier to find, and then eat.

On the way out

How To Spend It, the FT’s luxury magazine beloved of bonus-blowing bankers, is rebranding as HTSI. The newspaper says the old name no longer fits with the crisis-stricken modern world, and instead suggests that readers can interpret the “S” in other ways: “how to savour it” or “how to save it”, for example. “Hate To See It,” says The Wall Street Journal’s Myles Tanzer on Twitter.

Inside politics

Emmanuel Macron was said to be furious that Boris Johnson was able to visit Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv in April, a trip the French President still hasn’t made. “It’s so annoying to see Johnson still has this capacity to put himself front and centre when he hasn’t actually done very much since the start of this,” Macron complained to his advisers. “Johnson just ‘does Johnson’ – it’s populism. He keeps repeating ‘Putin must fail’ but there’s nothing behind the words.” Well, nothing, says Camilla Tominey in The Daily Telegraph, except the 5,000 anti-tank missiles, 1,360 anti-structure munitions, five air-defence systems and 4.5 tonnes of plastic explosives Britain has sent to Ukraine.


“We have finally reached peak white trainer,” says Harriet Walker in The Times. Neat, round-toed and with a low flat sole, they are a “fashion trend turned sartorial fact of life” – pretty much every woman owns several pairs, from Taylor Swift to Samantha Cameron. But “front row fashion types” are now wearing “literally anything else they can find”: chunky sandals, kitten heels, cowboy boots – even just “other trainers”. People loved white trainers because they felt more “grown-up”, explains Grazia’s fashion and lifestyle features director, Laura Antonia Jordan. “But they quickly became a bit mumsy.”

Staying young

Chiba, a Japanese city east of Tokyo, is paying young couples up to £1,860 to move into housing complexes full of old people, “in an effort to reverse the area’s aging population”, says Vice. The scheme, open to all newlyweds under 39, is one of many in Japan trying to tempt economically valuable youngsters. The country has the world’s oldest population, and in some Chiba apartment blocks the majority of residents are over 65.


It’s a portrait of the Queen painted by Ai-Da, described by her creators as the world’s first “ultra-realistic humanoid robot artist”. Last month the AI-powered automaton held her first solo exhibition at the 2022 Venice Biennale. Unveiling her painting, Algorithm Queen, Ai-Da praised its subject as “an outstanding, courageous woman who is utterly committed to public service”.


Quoted 31.05.22

“Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it.”

Writer André Gide