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7-8 January


Why young Europeans are to the right of us Brits

If you’re a young person anxious to know whether the “purity of your left-wing principles” will survive into middle age, says James Marriott in The Times, listen to what language is being spoken around you. If it’s English, your “youthful socialism” has a better chance of remaining uncorrupted. In Britain, America, Australia and Canada, millennials are “defying ancient political laws” by failing to become more right-wing as they age. But elsewhere in Europe, the traditional “political migration” away from the left continues. The reason is that in our world connected by social media, the critical cultural divide is “language, not geography”.


It turns out that heavier, potato-shaped stones are better for skimming across water than the thin, flat stones that everyone spends hours searching for. Boffins say it’s because larger rocks can give a “super-elastic response”: they don’t bounce as many times, but because they press into the water more deeply and for longer, the resulting force often causes a single “mega-bounce” that launches the object further. “There’s this almighty leap out of water,” a skimming scientist from Bristol University adds. “It changes the game.”

Inside politics

Americans love to complain that they’re ruled by a “gerontocracy”, says Franklin Foer in The Atlantic. For the past two years, the three biggest jobs in US politics have been held by Joe Biden (80), Chuck Schumer (72) and the now-ousted Nancy Pelosi (82). But experience counts for more in politics than people appreciate. Older leaders are more likely to be able to distinguish between people trying to fleece them and “the usual give-and-take”. They are more willing to accept imperfect compromises, because they know “how rarely grand victories emerge”. And they generally think less about “clinging to power” and more about trying to “write the first lines of their obituary”. It is perhaps no coincidence that despite holding the narrowest of congressional majorities, the Democrats’ ageing triumvirate “presided over one of the most prolific legislative sessions in recent history”.


Quoted Rochefoucauld 7.1.23

“We only confess our little faults to persuade people that we have no large ones.”

French writer François de La Rochefoucauld


The language of officialdom can provide a lot of fun, says Johnny Grimond in The Oldie. Some pompous officials clearly think important messages warrant long signs. Take the instruction “Please use the handrail provided”. What’s the “provided” doing? How could anyone use the handrail if it weren’t provided? “Other officials think it’s cool to be crisp.” Perhaps Dominic Cummings, architect of the Vote Leave favourite “Take back control”, was also responsible for the British Transport Police’s “See it. Say it. Sorted.” That moronic mantra must be aimed at those who would otherwise remain inert while gazing at a sputtering bomb fuse, rather than invoking some unnamed deity that would somehow result in the device being immediately disabled.


My guilty pleasure over Christmas was the “fabulous froth that is Emily in Paris”, says Robert Crampton in The Times. The Netflix show, which follows the “vapid antics” of an airhead American who moves to the French capital, has been described as “like scrolling through Instagram, a great way to waste time looking at pretty pictures with no depth”. And that’s why I love it. Everything looks fabulous: the “laughably hot” cast; the outlandish clothes; the City of Lights itself. The blatant product placement only “adds to the comedy”. But the main reason I love the show is “because I’m not supposed to”. Clearly, 58-year-old straight white men are not the target demographic; indeed, I suspect a decent proportion of my cohort treat it with derision. Well, “I don’t want to be one of those guys”. Watching this “fun and frivolity” is as good a way as any of “showing where my allegiances lie”. Je l’adore.


The apartment

This two-bedroom flat occupies the top two floors of a Victorian terraced house in Highgate, north London. It has an open plan kitchen, living, and dining room with an expansive window offering views of leafy treetops and filling the space with natural light. There is also a private roof terrace, and the property is a short stroll from Hampstead Heath and Highgate Underground station. £700,000.

The country house

This 17th-century mansion sits in 36 acres of landscaped grounds overlooking Aberdeen’s Bennachie hills. It has nine bedrooms, seven reception rooms including a grand hall, and a basement complete with a gym, studio and cinema room. Outside are a tennis court, stables, paddocks for horses, and an annexe with its own hot tub. Aberdeen city centre is a 45-minute drive away. £1.65m.




quoted chaplain 8.1.23

“Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot.”

Charlie Chaplin