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3-4 December

Behind the headlines

Intolerance is turning our museums into McDonald’s

I was sorry to hear that the Wellcome Collection is, in its own words, “racist, sexist and ableist”, says James Marriott in The Times. “I’d been vaguely meaning to go.” I now know my plans to liven up a damp afternoon by inspecting “Napoleon’s toothbrush and Florence Nightingale’s moccasins” concealed a darker subconscious motive – to, as the curators put it, “collude in the exclusion, marginalisation and exoticisation of indigenous peoples”. To anyone unfamiliar with the “censorious jargon” of modern academia, this must seem either “incomprehensible or bleakly hilarious”. But it’s a “characteristic tragedy of the modern age” – something a lot of people quite like has been killed by a small number who passionately hate it. It’s the same reason bad restaurants like McDonald’s are so successful. In any group deciding where to eat, there will be one or two with strong opinions – can’t have spicy food, won’t eat fish – so what we end up with is “bland compromise”.

Quirk of history

Merriam-Webster’s word of the year – “gaslighting”, which means grossly misleading someone – was inspired by the 1944 thriller Gaslight, starring Ingrid Bergman. She plays a young woman whose new husband tricks her into thinking she has lost her mind by hiding things from around the house and then accusing her of being responsible. Meanwhile he spends his time searching in the attic for her family’s jewels, which he wants to steal – and whenever he turns the lights on up there, the lamps in the rest of the house dim. Hence, gaslighting.

Inside politics

There’s a feeling of “parliamentary necrosis” within the Tory party, says John Oxley in UnHerd. Around a dozen MPs have said they’re standing down at the next election, including many of the party’s hottest prospects: Chloe Smith and Chris Skidmore, the “Bright Young Things” of the Cameron era, are barely 40; the “starlet of the Red Wall”, Dehenna Davison, is just 29. The Tories have always relied on a “vanguard of talented wunderkind” to shape and lead: Edward Heath in the 1950s; Ken Clarke in the 1980s; David Cameron and George Osborne in the 2010s. “Each generation brought with it a fresh energy to the political problems of the day.” Faced with the current haemorrhage of “new, hungry talent”, the party looks set to “decompose” – leaving Labour, and Britain’s voters, “deprived of any meaningful opposition”.


The Instagram account @Y2KBags is a “feast for the eyes”, says Vogue. Especially if those eyes are longing to see the “best – and often forgotten – handbag moments in recent pop culture history”. Remember a beaming Kim Kardashian carrying a toddler in a yellow Goyard Saint Louis tote? “You will now.” What about Sofía Vergara waving with a python Fendi Spy bag on her arm? And “it wouldn’t be a nostalgic Y2K roundup without Paris Hilton”: the heiress makes several appearances, including one in which she is “hauling a Louis Vuitton multicolour monogram Alzer suitcase from a powder-pink car”. Bliss.


Quoted 3.12.22

“The problem with beauty is that it’s like being born rich and getting poorer.”

Joan Collins


Forget the World Cup, says Bloomberg: today’s most exciting sport is teqball. Played on a curved table tennis table, it’s effectively a mix of ping pong and football in which players use anything but their hands to knock a ball back and forth across the net. Its biggest followings are in Europe – particularly France and Hungary, where the game was invented – and Brazil. Some European football clubs have already “sprouted companion teqball teams”, and amateur “teqers” include David Beckham and Lionel Messi. See the above rally in full here.


Climate scientists are getting a helping hand from an unexpected corner of history, says Grist magazine: whaling logs. The meticulous reports kept by crews in the 18th and 19th centuries mark not just where ships went and when, but also what the weather was like. By seeing how the climate was back then, researchers hope they can better understand where it’s going. “This is the language of the sea,” says Timothy Walker, a historian at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. “The whaling industry is the best-documented industry in the world.”


When Jack swaggered on to screen in the second series of White Lotus, “I immediately recognised his energy”, says Hannah Coates in Vogue. Who other than an Essex boy would arrive in such a tornado of cheeky chappie vigour (“alright geez?”)? “He’s coy, he’s naughty, and flirting is his mother tongue.” He can swear all he likes without ever sounding abrasive and he knows how to get away with being a bit outrageous. Jack feels like a “breath of fresh south-eastern air” among the stuffy rich American tourists, and I’m totally unsurprised everybody’s swooning over him. It’s good to see Essex boys finally “getting the attention and appreciation they deserve”. In a world of finance bros and hipsters, the beauty of the Essex boy is that he doesn’t care what anybody else thinks. His “boyish demeanour and devil-may-care attitude to life” set him above the rest.

Eating in

There’s been some “joyous news in the world of science”, says The Times: potatoes can actually help you lose weight. They make you feel full faster, meaning you’re less likely to reach for more calorific foods later. People tend to eat the same weight of stuff to feel satisfied, and spuds contain half the calories of pasta, rice and bread per gram. To best enhance the humble carbs’ flavour, says Michelin-star chef James Lowe, dice them into crouton-sized chunks, and roast them with brown butter and thyme. Or to make a gooey, “fondue-like” dish, suggests top cook Jack Stein, mix minced garlic and grated Emmental cheese with buttery mash “until it’s a stringy consistency”, then serve with a few cornichons or a pickled onion “for acidity”.


The townhouse

This three-bedroom apartment is on the top floor of a grand Edwardian mansion block in Highgate, north London. The interior is characterised by period details, such as original chimneypieces and ornate ceiling strapwork. It also boasts an exceptionally bright living space, sash windows looking out across the city, floor-to-ceiling cabinetry in the kitchen, and access to a communal garden. The property is a short walk from Highgate Tube station, trendy Highgate village and Hampstead Heath. £1.35m.

The country house

This semi-detached five-bedroom house in Ilfracombe, Devon, looks over the Bristol channel. The 2,478 sq ft interior has a wealth of period features, including a vast limestone fireplace and exposed wood panelling. Outside, there is a terrace ideally situated for al fresco dining with far-reaching views over the sea. Ilfracombe harbour has a variety of attractions, including boat rides to nearby Lundy Island. Exeter, with regular trains to London, is about an hour’s drive away. £795,000.



quote 4.12.22

“Dogs do speak, but only to those who know how to listen.”

Turkish author Orhan Pamuk