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4-5 February


Is our democracy in peril?

“Who isn’t afraid of Martin Wolf?” asks Emma Duncan in The Times. The FT columnist is the most important economics commentator in Britain, arguably the world. And in a new book, he has a chilling warning for the global elite: unless they change their ways, “the end is nigh”. Wolf’s theory is that the “benign marriage” between capitalism and liberal democracy is falling apart. Since the Second World War, the two systems have complemented each other: globalisation made everyone richer, which “fertilised the ground” for liberal democracy to spread beyond the West. The Soviet Union, which offered the only serious alternatives to capitalism and democracy, collapsed.

Tomorrow’s world

Airships are set to bring the “pleasure of cruising to the skies” by 2026, says Robb Report. Newly designed models can carry up to 130 passengers, or be configured to host a handful of guests in luxury suites for up to five days. One brand, OceanSky Cruises, is advertising a 36-hour excursion from Norway to the North Pole allowing guests to gaze out at polar bears, snow foxes and reindeer from 1,000 ft up. A ticket will set you back a cool $200,000. The CEO of another firm, Atlas, claims its ship will “have the capacity to land on any surface, including water”. These deluxe dirigibles won’t just make for more pleasurable journeys: they also use kerosene-powered reciprocating engines, a system that will burn around 90% less fuel than a similarly sized plane.

On the way back

In early February, after a few months holidaying in “warm, sunny South Africa”, swallows embark on their epic, 5,000-mile journey to England, says James Le Fanu in The Oldie. They head north over the jungles and plains of central Africa, cross “the blistering Sahara Desert to Algeria”, fly through Spain and France, then “arrive in late March over the Kent countryside, hungry and exhausted”. For centuries, the “abrupt departure” then “sudden, if most welcome, reappearance” of these graceful birds was one of “the great enigmas of the natural world”. Then in 1912, a South African hotel proprietor dispatched a letter to the British ornithologist Harry Witherby, reading: “Four days ago, a swallow was caught on a farm 18 miles from this town with a metal band around its leg inscribed with the words ‘Witherby, Holborn, London’.” Mystery solved.


Quoted 4.2.23

“Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you ain’t.”

American trade union leader Jesse Carr


Equestrian skijoring is the “wildest show on snow”, says Inside Hook. Riders on retired racehorses pull rope-clutching skiers downhill at speeds of up to 40 mph. Tracks are around 800-ft long, with skiers tackling hefty jumps and edging around gates to collect suspended rings. Men and women compete equally as “riders and sliders” in circuits, relays, and a “switcheroo” race, where partners swap places halfway through. The high-adrenaline hobby is the fastest-growing winter sport in North America, with more than 4,000 competitors and spectators expected to descend on Canada’s Calgary Polo Club for Skijordue 2023, a festival celebrating skijoring and fondue. Its motto: “Eat Cheese Go Fast”.

Tomorrow’s world

The New York Times recently asked deep thinkers from the worlds of academia, fashion, media, the arts and business what facts about the present we will one day look back on and cringe. Singer Rufus Wainwright thought “plastic bottles”; comedian Dino Stamatopoulos went for cancel culture, though for now he’s “too scared of being cancelled to say that”. The longest list came from longtime futurist and Wired magazine co-founder Kevin Kelly. One day, he says, “having your first name decided by your parents will be as unfashionable as having them pick who you marry”. He also thinks we’ll look back with embarrassment at “wanting to live in space”, “changing clocks twice a year”, “dying of cancer” and “not being able to have two spouses at once”. See the full list here.


The apartment

This two-bedroom maisonette sits across the top two floors of an Edwardian building near west London’s trendy Golborne Road. It has a modern kitchen-diner bathed in light from the wooden sash windows, a mezzanine-level living space, and a private balcony which catches the afternoon sun. White City and Ladbroke Grove Tube stations are both a 15-minute walk. £950,000.

The townhouse

This Grade II-listed Georgian property is on a crescent in Margate, Kent. Set over five floors, it has six bedrooms, a light-filled study, and an open-plan kitchen and living area. A wealth of period features remain, including two Adams fireplaces, intricate cornicing and original sash windows. Trains from Margate to St Pancras take under 1hr 30 mins. £925,000.



quote 4.2.23 Jong

“Advice is what we ask for when we know the answer but wish we didn’t.”

Erica Jong