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5-6 March

Behind the headlines

Putin’s fellow travellers

The war in Ukraine has put me in a tricky spot, says George Monbiot in The Guardian. I’m an anti-imperialist, and I strongly oppose what Russia is doing. But many of my fellow travellers on the left – who’ve often been staunch allies – are so blinded by hatred for Western imperialism that they have swallowed Putin’s lie that Nato is as much to blame for the conflict as Moscow. The Stop the War coalition’s deputy president Andrew Murray says it’s a myth that Ukraine wants peace. Former Labour MP Chris Williamson calls the government of Ukraine a “post-coup, neo-Nazi backed, corrupt regime”.

Long reads shortened

Russia’s “shadow army”

With Russian troops rumbling towards Kyiv, little attention is being paid to Vladimir Putin’s “shadow army”, says John Lewis-Stempel in UnHerd: the Wagner Group, a 6,000-strong mercenary force that arranges “military solutions” for the Kremlin. Named after Hitler’s favourite composer by its Nazi-obsessed founder, the group has more than 400 soldiers of fortune in Kyiv right now, with orders to “kill President Zelensky and dismember his government”.


quoted Mencken 5.3.22

“Conscience is the inner voice that warns someone may be looking.”

HL Mencken

On the money

Spend it like Beckham

In their glory days David and Victoria Beckham were worth a combined £470m – £130m richer than the Queen. But in the last few years the couple haven’t proved so financially savvy, says Stuart Heritage in Air Mail. Since he stopped playing football, David has embarked on a string of failed business projects: a cannabis skincare line that registered a £3.4m loss last year; a pub in Notting Hill that he briefly owned with Guy Ritchie; and the American soccer team Inter Miami, on which he has spaffed more than £11m trying to transform it into “world sport’s next big thing”.


quote dean smith 6.3.22

“If you treat every situation as a life and death matter, you’ll die a lot of times.”

Football manager Dean Smith

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From the archives

When American choreographer Busby Berkeley worked on the 1933 film Footlight Parade, he hired 100 chorus girls to perform a four-minute-long aquatic dance routine called the “human waterfall”. It took two weeks to rehearse, a further six days to shoot, and required more than 75,000 litres of water a minute to be pumped across the set. Watch the full version here.

Great escape

A treasure on the Mediterranean

“Virtually nobody comes to Algeria,” says Rob Crossan in The Daily Telegraph. But they should. A trip to its capital, Algiers, might be “the most enthralling Mediterranean city break there is”. The food rivals Beirut’s, the sunshine equals Malaga’s and the hospitality is warm enough to “melt the hearts of hardened misanthropes”. And for nervous travellers, apart from some very limited border areas, the Foreign Office deems Algeria “completely safe to visit”. It feels a world away from dreary London, yet the flight time from Heathrow is “a barely believable two hours and 40 minutes”.

Staying young

Pottering is good for you, according to a study from the University of California. They found that women who spend at least four hours a day on their feet have a 62% lower chance of dying from heart disease. This is music to my ears, says India Knight in The Sunday Times. And I’m confident it has mental benefits, too. Pottering looks brainless, but as you make dinner at a leisurely pace or pop out to check if the tulips have bloomed, “you are in fact ironing out your mind and getting rid of all the pesky creases”. The definition of a win-win.


The hideaway

White Cliff sits in four acres of landscaped gardens at the western end of the Jurassic Coast in Devon, with unbeatable views over Lyme Bay. The 125-year-old house has been renovated throughout, with working fireplaces, bespoke wooden flooring, an indoor pool and a sunken hot tub. It has four bedrooms, four bathrooms and numerous outbuildings, including a boathouse. The idyllic fishing village of Beer is within walking distance. £4.95m.

The pied-a-terre

You’d never guess that Rose Cottage is in central London, and a stone’s throw from the shops, restaurants and market stalls of Spitalfields. The one-bedroom townhouse is tucked away in a peaceful courtyard that was once part of an old dairy. Its two floors are connected by a spiral staircase, and the open-plan kitchen and living area on the upper level has a fireplace and vaulted ceilings. Liverpool Street station and the City are within walking distance. £800,000.