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29-30 January


quoted fields 29.1

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. No use being a damn fool about it.”

Comedian W. C. Fields

Eating in

McDonald’s pulled out of Iceland in 2009 in the wake of the country’s devastating financial crisis. Three years later, Icelander Hjörtur Smárason found a Big Mac and fries, seemingly untouched by decomposition, while clearing out his garage. The meal has since been on display at various sites around the country, says Atlas Obscura – and it still looks just like it did when Smárason bought it.

Quirk of history

When President Dwight Eisenhower visited the Queen in August 1959, he clearly “fell in love” with her drop scones, says Shaun Usher in the Letters of Note newsletter. Five months later, she sent him the recipe and an accompanying letter: “Seeing a picture of you in today’s newspaper standing in front of a barbecue grilling quail, reminded me that I had never sent you the recipe of the drop scones which I promised you at Balmoral,” it read. “I now hasten to do so, and I do hope you will find them successful.”



quoted Boris 29.1

“I’ve got a brilliant new strategy, which is to make so many gaffes that nobody knows which one to concentrate on.”

Boris Johnson, talking to the BBC in 2006

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On the way back

Thanks to Disney+’s new Pamela Anderson biopic, everyone suddenly wants a “bombshell makeover”, says Hannah Rogers in The Times. According to eBay, interest in the Baywatch star’s quintessentially sexy style has skyrocketed: shopping searches for “Pam Anderson” are up 39%, “black leather corsets” 45%, and “red swimming costume” 74%. It’s known as “#PamCore”.



Long reads shortened

The fraudster who made up a country

Nearly 200 years ago, Gregor MacGregor pulled off one of the most “elaborate and deadliest frauds in history”, says Mark Dent in The Hustle. The Scottish con man did so by taking advantage of the “dot-com bubble of the early 19th century”: South America. In the wake of the Napoleonic Wars, British investors were “swimming in cash and optimism” – and pouring money into newly independent South American countries such as Colombia and Chile.

Climate change

Siberia’s long-buried mysteries

A Soviet scientist once described Siberia’s permafrost as a “Russian Sphinx”, says Joshua Yaffa in The New Yorker: “inexplicable, alluring, a riddle to be solved”. Thanks to climate change, this frozen ground is starting to melt – releasing all manner of long-buried mysteries. When scientists defrosted a 24,000-year-old “wormlike invertebrate” in 2015, it began crawling around, fully functional. In 2013, the carcass of a mammoth frozen millennia ago started to bleed after being dug up.

Tomorrow’s world

China is controlling its weather

China is planning to control the weather during next month’s Winter Olympics in Beijing, says Steven Zeitchik in The Washington Post. It’s turning an estimated 49 million gallons of water into fake snow, which will create the “surreal spectacle” of snowy ski and snowboard runs snaking down brown hills. But its meteorological interventions may also “take on a more cosmic cast. The government could step in to try to create rain, disperse storms and even turn the sky blue.”

Eating in

A California food tech company has invented “Netflix for drinks” – a toaster-sized contraption that promises to “print” any drink you can think of. After discovering that nearly all drinks are around 99% water, with only a minute fraction of other stuff, founder Dave Friedberg hired a team of scientists (and raised $30m) to make a prototype. The resulting Cana “molecular drink printer” uses a single cartridge filled with different “flavour compounds”, which it combines to reproduce anything from fruit juice to fizzy drinks, coffee and cocktails.


The hideaway

This beachfront haven is “an astonishing house in an astonishing location”, says Country Life. Perched above Porthkidney Beach, with views over the Hayle Estuary and St Ives Bay, this four-bedroom house was once the home of artist John Miller – his studio has been turned into a separate two-bedroom residence. The main house has a conservatory, large terrace and private steps down to the beach. St Ives is a 10-minute drive. £1.5m.

The country house

…or, in this week’s case, hotel. With staycations in demand, there has been a boom in country house hotels, says The Times. Sales were up 330% last year compared to before the pandemic. You might recognise Ston Easton Park (above), a Grade I listed manor in Somerset, from last year’s BBC production of The Pursuit of Love. The childhood home of Jacob Rees-Mogg, it became a hotel in 1978 and today has 20 ensuite bedrooms, a billiard room, a three-bedroom gardener’s cottage and a coach house set in 28 acres of grounds. Bath and Bristol are half an hour away by car. All offers with plans to turn the hotel into a second home have been rejected so far. A “snip” at £6m.