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19 July

In the headlines

“Snowflake Britain had a meltdown” during yesterday’s 38C temperatures, says the Daily Mail, with schools closing, shops shutting, and transport grinding to a halt. More chaos is likely today, with England set to bask in record-breaking 42C heat. Kemi Badenoch is “poised to be kingmaker” in the Tory leadership race, says The Daily Telegraph. If she is knocked out this afternoon as expected, the candidate she backs could pick up all-important votes. Results of the latest ballot are at 3pm. A shake-up to wedding laws means couples will be able to get hitched wherever they like, says The Sun. Free to avoid pricey venues, hard-up couples can even be “lawnfully wed” in their own back gardens.

UK heatwave

Terrible, all this good weather we’re having

It was with some trepidation, says Ross Clark in The Spectator, that I set out on a hike in the roasting hills of southwest France. The mercury was due to hit 37C, a level that is “lethal”, if the British press are to be believed, “even if you are sitting around the garden”. The current UK heatwave, says the media, is expected to “kill thousands of Britons”. In daring to brave such extreme temperatures, I would surely go down in local legend as the “foolish Englishman who perished after going out in the midday sun”.


The Tories are having a David Miliband moment

Back in 2010, says John Rentoul in The Independent, Labour chose Ed Miliband as their new leader rather than his more competent, pragmatic brother David. The party, newly turfed out of power, was “confused and exhausted” by the compromises it had had to make in government; it wanted to get back to comforting left-wing orthodoxy. But that decision still haunts it. As recently as this year I heard a former Labour voter in a focus group say the party had chosen the “wrong brother”.

Gone viral

Green-fingered TikTokers are sharing videos online in which they talk to trees and the trees respond, says Mia Mercado in The Cut. It began with one user telling some garden shrubbery: “if you can hear me, touch my shoulder.” A branch appeared to lean over and graze her arm. Now the app is awash with people talking to “trees, houseplants, and neighbourhood foliage”. Even the pop star Lizzo checked in with her greenery, asking a potted patio plant to touch her hand, which it obligingly did. “More proof of the power that Lizzo holds over all living things.”


Even literary stars-to-be write incoherent nonsense as children, says Letters of Note. In a letter to her brother, an 11-year-old Emily Dickinson rambled on about an egg stolen from a hen’s nest, hypothesising: “I suppose a skonk has been there or else a hen In the shape of a skonk.” A six-year-old Virginia Woolf foreshadowed some of her more morbid work, recounting in a letter to her mother the story of: “An old man of 70 who got his legs caute in the weels of a train and the train began to go on and the gentleman was dragged along till the train caute fire and he called out for somebody to cut off his legs but nobody came he was burnt up. Good bye.”

Eating in

If you’re hosting in this heat, says Olivia Potts in The Spectator, the last thing you want to be doing is sweating over a roast chicken, frying lardons or poaching an egg. The answer? “Cool, crisp, crunchy” Greek salad. All that’s required is “a little gentle chopping”. Better yet, the salty feta, bitter Kalamata olives, and cooling cucumber all come straight from the fridge. The secret is to let the red onion sit in ice water for a minute after slicing, which takes away that oniony astringency and ensures it doesn’t “flop into sliminess”, even in this heat. Read the full recipe here.

Staying young

A personal trainer in Indiana says he became “crazy ripped” after spending a year running like a dog. Nathaniel Nolan does “a minimum of about 30 to 45 minutes a day” on all fours, he tells the TV channel ABC7. Perhaps surprisingly, passers-by rarely stop him to ask what he’s up to. “Pretty much never,” he says. “A lot of people underestimate how little people care about what’s going on around them.”

On the money

Vietnam’s richest man, Pham Nhat Vuong, lost a cool £407m in six hours this month, says Vice. An internet rumour claiming he was being investigated for corruption spread out of control, sending his investments plummeting on the stock market. The man identified as the source of the scurrilous gossip was fined £266.


It’s a holy relic that supposedly contains the blood of Christ. It was stolen from a French abbey in June, along with a host of other treasures. But three weeks later Dutch art detective Arthur Brand received an email from the anonymous thief, who eventually dumped the haul on his doorstep. They had decided that the bad luck brought on by stealing religious artefacts wasn’t worth it.


Quoted 19.7.22

“You’re on Earth. There’s no cure for that.”

Samuel Beckett