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26 May

In the headlines

GPs will be offered bonuses for recruiting patients into clinical trials, says The Times, as part of a push to lure pharmaceutical giants to the UK. It’s part of a £650m government programme to boost life sciences, with funds also earmarked for speeding up the approval of new drugs. Britain’s population is on track to overtake France’s for the first time, says the I newspaper. Record migration means that by 2025 the UK will become Europe’s second-largest country with around 68 million people, trailing only Germany, which has 83 million residents. British beaches may face a “monster jellyfish invasion” during next week’s half-term break, says the Daily Star. Warming sea temperatures will tempt the venomous blobs further north than usual, possibly including deadly Portuguese man o’ wars. “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…”


The Photography Centre at London’s V&A opened yesterday, celebrating the museum’s picture collection – one of the largest and most important in the world. It includes snaps of a firework exploding over a 1980s London building site; a woman looking out over the Indian coast; a rioter running away from burning objects in the street; and a blast in a limestone quarry. See more here.


The “humanities catastrophists” are at it again, says Henry Oliver in The Critic. You know the ones – the people who think the decline in studying English at universities marks some sort of existential threat to our cultural landscape. It’s nonsense. The reality is that “many, if not all” the virtues of such courses are available away from lecture halls. And off campus, “the humanities are thriving”. Literary events abound. Sales of fiction boomed during Covid. There are dozens of bookish Substacks with thousands of followers, several publishing houses solely dedicated to reviving “out-of-print classics”, and more literary periodicals than we could ever need. “Literature enrolments may be suffering. Literature isn’t.”

On the way back

Sergey Brin, the billionaire co-founder of Google, has ploughed more than $250m into bringing airships back to our skies, says Bloomberg. The firm in question, Lighter Than Air, is about to unveil the first of its Pathfinder 1 models (pictured), a 122-metre-long blimp given buoyancy by 13 “helium bladders”. Why Brin wants a whole fleet of airships “remains a partial mystery”, given the industry “barely exists today”. Alan Weston, the company’s CEO (and a founding member of Oxford University’s Dangerous Sports Club), says they could one day be a “viable, green means for transporting freight”.

Gone viral

This clip of a drinker rolling his kayak while keeping his pint of Guinness above water has racked up almost five million views on Twitter. As one user says: “There is zero chance that guy isn’t Irish.”

Love etc

F Scott Fitzgerald was as insecure as they come, says Florian Illies in his new book Love in a Time of Hate. One evening, the author revealed to Ernest Hemingway “in a choked voice” that his wife Zelda had told him his penis was too small. Hemingway suggested they immediately head to the gents so that he could assess the matter for himself – where he decided, in his “expert opinion”, that everything was “perfectly fine”. Alas, Fitzgerald couldn’t be consoled. “One more reason to drink.”


It’s the world’s first “nepo dad”: Rob Grant, father of pop star Lana Del Rey. The 69-year-old previously worked as an ad man – but now, thanks to the record-producing contacts of his daughter, he is releasing his debut album Lost at Sea, inspired by his love of boating. “The nepo daddy thing I love,” Grant tells GQ, after fans flooded his Instagram comments with the term. “I thought, ‘My God, this would make really cool merch.’” He has even bought the website domain


quoted 26.5.23

“Why should I care about posterity? What has it ever done for me?”

Groucho Marx