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29-30 October

From the archives

Being prime minister is an impossible job

When he was prime minister from 1902 to 1905, Arthur Balfour “spent as much time as he could on his 180,000-acre Scottish estate”, says The Economist. He whiled away the days playing golf, and the evenings enjoying long dinners and after-dinner games. “The one thing that didn’t get a look-in was politics.” It was a subject, Balfour told his sister, to which his mind “did not naturally turn”. He didn’t bother reading newspapers on the (very sensible) basis that “nothing matters very much and most things don’t matter at all”. How things have changed. Today’s prime ministers “spend every waking hour trying to master events, only to be broken by them in the end”. What’s happened? “Why has Balfour’s easy chair become so uncomfortable?”


quoted orwell 29.10.22

“Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.”

George Orwell


quoted fleming 29.10.22

“Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action.”

Ian Fleming


Judi Dench’s criticism of The Crown doesn’t really stand up to scrutiny, says The Times. The 87-year-old actress recently described the royal drama as “cruelly unjust”, and said it should come with a disclaimer explaining that it’s fictionalised. This intervention surprised the programme’s creators, as they had been in advanced (but ultimately fruitless) talks with Dench about appearing as the Queen Mother in the forthcoming fifth series.

Staying young

Food allergies are becoming increasingly common, says Vox, with up to 8% of US children now unable to eat certain ingredients. Scientists investigating this rise have come up with the “hygiene hypothesis”: as sanitation and cleanliness improve, our body has fewer germs and parasites to fight off. Because of this, our restless immune system starts to turn against “harmless things” like allergens. This helps explain why allergies increase with living standards: in China, allergy levels rose from 5% between 1999 and 2008 to 8% between 2009 and 2018. It also sheds light on why children living in rural areas, who spend more time outside in nature, are only two-thirds as likely to have allergies as city folk.


Britain’s housing policy really is as bad as everyone claims, says Sebastian Mallaby in The Washington Post. Countries like France and Italy have almost 600 dwellings per 1,000 inhabitants; the EU average is 500. But a “plethora of overzealous rules” means that in Britain, it’s fewer than 450. As The Economist has said, this isn’t just a NIMBY (Not in My Back Yard) country. It’s a BANANA country: Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything.


The country house

This converted former station house has panoramic views of the rolling Scottish Borders. Stone-built with a slate roof, the property includes six bedrooms, two large reception rooms, and the original ticket office. A diesel locomotive and stretch of train track next to the house is also available for purchase. The M6 and M74 motorways are about half an hour’s drive away. £500,000.

The apartment

This three-bedroom apartment lies in the heart of Paris’s Triangle d’Or (Golden Triangle), known for its opulent hotels and luxury shops. The 1,600 sq ft property has three generous bedrooms, a traditional fireplace, and a living room bathed in light from three large windows. The Champs-Élysées is a five-minute walk away, with multiple Metro stations nearby. £2.57m.