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5 October

In the headlines

Rishi Sunak has defended his plans to phase out smoking as the “biggest single intervention in public health in a generation”. The PM said Tory MPs would be given a free vote on the policy, and his predecessor Liz Truss has already signalled that she will vote against it. Laurence Fox was arrested yesterday for encouraging people to vandalise Ulez cameras. The actor-turned-activist, who was sacked by GB News while in custody over misogynistic comments he made last week, said he was a victim of Britain’s “Stasi police force”. Fluorescent animals are much more common than previously thought. Researchers who studied 125 mammal species, including cats, bats, polar bears and wombats (pictured), found that all of them showed some form of fluorescence, and that 86% had fur which actually glowed under UV light.


Pet photographers from 32 countries entered snaps of their faithful friends to the 2023 International Pet Photographer of the Year contest. Top picks include shots of a white horse in the snow; a wolfhound being nibbled by a puppy; a sheepdog at work; a handsome hound nuzzling its owner; and a lurcher standing on a pile of logs. See the rest of the winners here.


To the Times:


Among the various cures you suggest for hiccups, there was no mention of one sure-fire way of stopping them. This is to drink a full glass of water without stopping while blocking both ears. It is possible to do this by oneself, but of course it is much easier if someone else slowly tilts the glass. This method was taught by my biology master in the 1950s, Humphrey Moore, who was an expert on toads. He contended that if it didn’t work you must be an amphibian.


Andrew Stronach, Sevenoaks

Love etc

Taylor Swift’s sudden interest in American football – thanks to her rumoured romance with the Kansas City Chiefs’ moustachioed meathead Travis Kelce – is driving massive numbers of women to the sport. A game the pop star attended last week was the most-watched match of the year apart from the Super Bowl, drawing an average audience of 27 million – 22% higher than the contest on the same night a year before. According to NBC, the Swift effect meant an extra two million female viewers tuned in, with viewership among girls aged 12-17 more than 50% higher than the season average.


This year’s Tory party conference raised many troubling questions, says The Economist. What will be the impact of the HS2 decision? What to do about inflation? And above all, “why do so many Tories still wear ties”? The neckwear has “largely fallen out of favour” elsewhere, but in the Manchester Central Convention Complex it could be found in abundance. There were spotted, silk, floral and faded ties, and even a pheasant-patterned number. Its owner said he “likes to eat them – pheasants, that is”. As midnight looms on one night, a drunk Tory in a “slightly askew bowtie” slurs that the conference is “good fun”. Behind him, “a man in a stripy tie wobbles towards a flowerbed”.

Quirk of language

Italians often use what’s known as inglese farlocco, or “fake English”, says the FT. You might travel in a Pullman (an intercity bus) or by autostop (hitchhiking). WFH is known as smart working, sometimes partially Italianised to lavoro in smart. In business, Italian verb endings are stuck on to the English: schedulare (to schedule a meeting), or ti brieffo (I’ll brief you). And young Italians have cobbled together plenty of hybrids, from boomerata (things a baby boomer would do) to cringissimo (the ultimate in cringe).


It’s Wally, an “emotional support” alligator who was refused entry to an American baseball stadium. Owner Joie Henney says the reptile, who has a large social media following, helped him through depression – and, crucially, doesn’t bite. But when Henney took him to a Philadelphia Phillies game last week, security rejected them at the gates. Having never really bought into the whole “emotional support animals” thing, says columnist Rod Liddle, I was cheered to read of this brave stand. “I am sure the Phillies’ resolve was not occasioned simply by the fact that Wally is an alligator.”


“Some minds are like soup in a poor restaurant – better left unstirred.”

PG Wodehouse