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8-9 January

Behind the headlines

Should Australia have let “No-vax” in?

I’m no fan of Novak Djokovic, but rejecting him on Australia’s doorstep was “nothing short of madness”, says Michael Koziol in The Sydney Morning Herald. The tennis player, a vocal vaccine sceptic, had his medical exemption for our strict vaccine mandate revoked at the airport earlier this week. Denying him the chance to play in the Australian Open might have made sense back when we were maintaining “zero Covid”. But now that we’re notching up 60,000 cases a day, “it’s just silly”. Djokovic, who is now stuck in a Melbourne hotel awaiting the results of a legal appeal, was granted the exemption by two medical panels. Do we really think him running around a tennis court is some huge threat to our health?

Heroes and villains

Prince Philip | Pope Francis | A cactus

Prince Philip unwittingly saved the world’s rarest marsupial from extinction. In 1962, the Duke of Edinburgh successfully lobbied for an area of Australian bushland to be designated a wildlife sanctuary. Unbeknown to anyone, the bush contained a number of Gilbert’s potoroo, a tiny “rat-kangaroo” written off as extinct for a century. The potoroos were rediscovered in 1994, and conservation efforts are thought to have now boosted their numbers to more than 100.


Why white writers just can’t win

Sally Rooney is a literary sensation – but is her writing too safe? Recently the Irish author’s novels have been criticised for being narrow-minded: they are all set in white, middle-class, Irish society. White authors like Rooney can’t win, says the writer Tomiwa Owolade on the Radio 4 podcast Pride or Prejudice: How we Read Now. If you write about non-white people in a way that’s not entirely “perfect”, you risk offending a great deal of people and torpedoing your career. But if you only write about white people, everyone tells you you’re too conventional. “Whatever you do you’re always in the wrong.”


quoted hockney 8.1

“I have had three doctors in the last 50 years. Each of them recommended I give up. But each of them has now died.”

David Hockney on smoking


quoted wright 8.1

“Experience is something you don’t get until just after you need it.”

US comedian Steven Wright

Inside politics

Boris Johnson’s first bid to be elected president of the Oxford Union debating society, in 1984, ended in failure. His second attempt was much more savvy, says Harry Shukman in Gentleman’s Journal. As in the 2019 general election, Johnson reached out beyond traditional Tory voters, in this case declaring himself a supporter of the Social Democratic Party. And he replaced his usual habit of “taking solo evening walks around Oxford” with a series of strolls with popular students, “so he could be spotted with the people who mattered”. It worked – Johnson won.


The townhouse

This four-bedroom detached Edwardian house sits within the peaceful Hampstead Conservation Area in London, but is just minutes from the buzzy high street. Set across three floors, it has original period windows, oak parquet flooring and working fireplaces. There is also a double garage, a large conservatory with a balcony, and a private garden. Hampstead tube station is five minutes’ walk away. £3.5m.

The country house

This 15-bedroom Scottish mansion, built in an English Tudor style and thought to date from 1908, is currently composed of four self-contained properties full of period charm. Set within 25 acres of Galloway countryside, it has a four-hole pitch and putt course, a tennis court and a croquet lawn. The market town of Newton Stewart is four miles away and the marina at Stranraer offers sailing opportunities. £995,000.