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All the week’s wisdom in one place
16-22 July 2021

Behind the headlines

Space race

Battle of the billionaires

The billionaire space race has begun. On Sunday, 70-year-old Richard Branson (worth $3.79bn) soared 53.4 miles above the Earth on one of his Virgin Galactic rocket planes. The firm already has $85m in deposits for places on future flights, with tickets starting at $200,000. Not to be outdone, says Samuel Fishwick in the Evening Standard, Jeff Bezos ($207.9bn) will go up seven miles higher next Tuesday – his Blue Origin space company jibed on Twitter that Branson didn’t quite make it to space proper. Bezos wants to set up “space colonies” dotted around the solar system, and has a habit of whipping out mock-ups of medieval Florence and Beijing’s Forbidden City rebuilt in the stars.

Euro 2020

The football racists aren’t the victors

“The English didn’t just lose a penalty shootout on Sunday”, says the Swiss tabloid Blick. After a horrible night of fights, frights and racist slurs as England fell to Italy on penalties at Wembley, the Three Lions can “wave goodbye to a lot of respect from the rest of Europe” too. Bukayo Saka, 19, Jadon Sancho, 21, and Marcus Rashford, 23, were taunted with monkey emojis on social media within minutes of missing penalties. By Monday morning, a mural of Rashford in Manchester had been vandalised with racist graffiti.

Jacob Zuma

South Africa: a failed state?

A week ago, I was just worried about getting my jab – “now I’m more worried about where we’re getting bread from”, says Paddy Harper in the Mail & Guardian (South Africa). In my hometown of Durban, in the northeast province of KwaZulu-Natal, where rioting started last week, people are being murdered, three malls have been “stripped” and the city centre has been trashed. The spark that ignited this chaos was the imprisonment last week of Jacob Zuma – the former president was put away for being in contempt of a corruption trial that is charging him with fraud, racketeering and money laundering in a £3bn arms deal (which he denies). But then the violence spread to Gauteng, around Johannesburg, and beyond: major roads have been blocked, 200 shopping malls looted and up to $1bn worth of goods stolen or destroyed. At least 117 people have died and more than 3,000 arrested. Vigilante groups are patrolling neighbourhoods. President Cyril Ramaphosa has warned of food, fuel and medicine shortages and has called for 25,000 troops to support the overwhelmed police.

Global Update


Grant quoted 16.7

“Who won PMQs this week? As ever, the wise majority who didn’t tune in.”

Madeline Grant, in The Daily Telegraph

Inside politics

Macron, the man of the people

Despite his sharp criticisms of Islamism and his attempts to cut back France’s generous pension scheme, Emmanuel Macron “has turned into something of a closet socialist”, says Charlemagne in The Economist. He’s handing out €300 to 18-year-olds to spend on “culture” and capping university meals at €1. Poor, retired farmers are being given an extra €100 a month, a policy nabbed from the Communist Party. “In his well-cut suits and shiny leather shoes”, the former banker doesn’t look like a class warrior. Perhaps that’s the idea: his strongest political competition comes from right-wing figures such as Marine Le Pen. But his mixed-up politics suits a country that’s “happy to live with messy compromise”.


We need to talk about London

I fear London is dying, says Tanya Gold in The Telegraph. People yell at you, homes are hideously expensive and “people prefer to have a breadstick delivered by lorry” than visit the ailing high street, further choking the capital’s heaving roads. On Sunday, Wembley was swamped by fans drinking for 10 hours before the Euros final, but summer violence is a citywide tradition. “Politicians faced with riots pray for rain.” Yet the rain is “monstrous”, as we’ve “covered our gardens for parking spaces” and dug basements into the ground “like the dwarves of Moria”. The waters rose over South Hampstead and Raynes Park on Monday, which never used to happen. It felt like “the story of Noah in concrete”. A city needs to be porous to survive, and London isn’t. There is a sense that things “are slipping out of control”.


Vaccines noted 16.7

If vaccines are in short supply around the world, why not simply give people smaller doses, says Tim Harford in the Financial Times. The method seems to have worked with a yellow fever outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo five years ago. There’s evidence that even 25%-strength doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines can produce enough Covid antibodies.

Long reads shortened

Boris Johnson

How the PM made himself part of history

Our prime minister “plays to the rootedness of Middle England”, says Tom McTague in The Atlantic. Yet Boris was named after a Russian his parents met in Mexico, who bought them plane tickets so Johnson’s heavily pregnant mother wouldn’t have to take the bus back to America. Johnson was a “quiet, introspective boy”, partially deaf until he was eight or nine due to having glue ear. At Eton, “he transformed himself into the confident, insouciant extrovert we see today”. Eric Anderson, who was housemaster to both Johnson and Tony Blair while they were there, says that Johnson was “without a doubt” his most interesting pupil. A friend of the PM says Johnson subscribes to a pre-Christian morality with “no clear set of rules”. Johnson describes himself as a “very bad Christian”.


We’re trashing our most vital resource

We are water creatures, so much so that we share features with some aquatic animals – a lowered larynx, subcutaneous fat, and a slowing of our metabolism when in water. But our love for it isn’t saving rivers or seas, says Wade Graham in Perspective magazine. We have “dammed, diverted, depleted, polluted” rivers and their ecosystems the world over. Here in the US, the once-mighty Colorado is now the most engineered river on Earth and has reached the Pacific only a couple of times in 60 years. The ocean off California, assaulted by plastics, invasive species and upended by marine heatwave, “has gone haywire”. All forms of life, from anchovies to whales, are suffering. And while global-warming experts worry mainly about air pollution, “water is where we need to focus”.


Lil Nas X

From TikToker to trailblazer

Lil Nas X is one of the most “subversive” men in pop, says Jazmine Hughes in The New York Times, after spending the day with him in LA. The 22-year-old from Georgia became an overnight star three years ago, when his song Old Town Road went viral on TikTok. His remix of it with Billy Ray Cyrus charted at No 1 in the US for 17 weeks straight. As a boy, Nas shared a bed with his grandmother and four siblings: now he’s reportedly worth $14m and lives in a $2.4m mansion in California.

Yulia Navalnaya

Living with Russia’s leading rebel

It’s rare that Yulia Navalnaya loses her resolve, says Julia Ioffe in a Vanity Fair profile of one of Russia’s most mysterious women. But when her activist husband Alexei Navalny was poisoned (seemingly by Russian agents) last August, Navalnaya, 44, allowed herself to shed a “silent cascade” of tears over an early-morning whisky. Arriving at his hospital in Siberia, she out-argued a “small battalion” of security officers who unsuccessfully tried to keep her from seeing her husband. She issued a public letter to Putin, demanding her husband be allowed to leave the country. He complied. Once Navalny was in a Berlin hospital, she visited him every day to adjust his pillows and play their favourite songs, including Duran Duran’s cover of Perfect Day. “Their 20th wedding anniversary came and went.”


Omelette noted 16.7

An issue that has long divided Spain – do you put onions in a Spanish omelette? – has been settled. El Mundo has published a survey that reveals 72.7% of Spaniards are concebollistas (pro-onion) compared with 25.3% who are sincebollistas (anti-onion). “We need to learn how to listen to and understand the sincebollistas,” pleaded the journalist Jordi Barcia on Twitter. “Brexit and Trump happened because of less.”

Staying young

Jump for joy

Skipping is one of the latest TikTok health trends to surface in lockdown – the hashtag #jumprope has recently had more than one billion views. “No longer the prerogative of six-year-old girls or professional boxers,” says Katie Russell in The Telegraph, the sport has been transformed by influencers incorporating forms of dance routines. One of the best known is Laura Flymen, who was furloughed from her job as a sales manager in April last year and now has 369,000 followers watching her fancy footwork. Russell tried it and “kept tripping over the rope and whipping my arms until they were pink”. Persevere and you’ll find skipping burns more calories than jogging and is better for your knees than running.


Grandmaster flash: the 12-year-old champion

Being the world’s youngest chess grandmaster “opens doors”, says Misha Friedman in The New York Times. Grandmasters are a dime a dozen but being the youngest secures prestige. Sergei Karjakin, born in Crimea, was 12 in 2002 when he assumed the title that even world champions such as Garry Kasparov and Magnus Carlsen didn’t achieve. He held it for 18 years, losing the title last June. Karjakin’s face was plastered across Moscow billboards and he appeared on the most popular talk shows. Companies paid thousands to sponsor him, with one firm putting up $300,000. When Vladimir Putin later invited him to his residence, his first question was: “You became a grandmaster at 12, didn’t you?” “Yes,” Karjakin said. “I was the youngest.”

After Hours

Everyone’s watching

The Truffle Hunters

Just like a truffle, this idyllic film is “a little nutty, deep, sweet and very rare”, says Dulcie Pearce in The Sun. In the chilly forests of Piedmont, northwest Italy, directors Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw (with Call Me by Your Name’s director Luca Guadagnino as executive producer) spent three years filming furtive truffle hunters and their highly trained hounds. Using customised harnesses, the directors attached GoPro cameras to the heads of the dogs so they could capture the truffle hunt, which is thrilling. Each shot looks like it could be framed and put in an exhibition. I wouldn’t usually bang on about an 84-minute documentary about geriatric Italians – aged 60 to 88 – even if said doc was shortlisted for an Oscar, but this “really is a gem”.


What the critics liked

Richard Nixon was the most ill-at-ease of American presidents, says Craig Brown in the Mail on Sunday. “Full of resentments, and prone to anxiety and depression”, he was known at university as “Gloomy Gus”. He chose his friends for their willingness to listen to his “endless beefs against his enemies, both real and imagined”. In King Richard: Nixon and Watergate, an American Tragedy (Scribe £18.99), Michael Dobbs describes the 37th president as an “unfathomable mixture of idealism and cynicism, greatness and pettiness”.

The hideaway

This five-bedroom villa in Capri has vaulted ceilings, handmade terracotta floors, arched doorways and an ancient fireplace. There’s a large garden with a pool and the terraces and balconies have views over the Bay of Naples. Although Capri is a popular tourist spot, the villa is secluded. €4m.

The country house

The original section of seven-bedroom Dagnall Farm, Buckinghamshire, dates from 1700. A spacious hallway leads to a formal dining room with stylish wallpaper and a living room with a wood-burner. There is panelling in several rooms and an electric Aga in the kitchen. The garden includes a rose arbour, an orchard and veg patches. Milton Keynes station is a 15-minute drive away. £1.795m.

The townhouse

Church Tower is an English baroque masterpiece in the heart of the City of London, with views of St Paul’s Cathedral and the hills of Kent. The church was designed by Christopher Wren after the Great Fire in 1666 and destroyed during the Blitz; only the tower remains. It has eight floors, a library, three bedrooms, a living room and a study. £3.75m.

The cottage

This three-bedroom cottage is in Castle Combe, a Cotswold village used as a location for Downton Abbey, War Horse and Poirot. The main bedroom is reached via a hidden staircase in the living area. Outside there’s a terrace and a garden with stone paths, a vegetable patch, a chicken coop, a workshop and a pond. Chippenham station is 15 minutes away. £675,000.

The bolthole

The top-floor flat in a converted Edwardian house above Livermead Sands, Torquay, has two bedrooms, a balcony and access to communal gardens. The house is set back from the road, a short walk from the beach and the medieval village of Cockington. £250,000.


Coleridge quote 16.7

“My earnest advice to my children is never take out a pension. It is all fees and blather; far better to invest in brown furniture.”

Nicholas Coleridge, in The Spectator

Eating in

Oeuf! It’s time to get cracking

Oeuf mayo, or egg mayonnaise, is a simple dish revered in France, says Dorie Greenspan in The New York Times. The French even have a society to “safeguard” it: the Association for the Protection of Egg Mayonnaise. The dish is “striking in its simplicity”. Just boil two eggs for seven minutes, until their yolks are firm but “a little jammy” in the centre. Then whip up a “velvety” homemade mayonnaise, or you could just thin out your favourite store-bought brand with a few drops of hot water and season it heavily. Halve the eggs, cover with mayonnaise, et voilà!


Napoleon noted 16.7

Napoleon’s hat can be yours this year. One of Little Boney’s distinctive black felt bicornes is up for sale at Sotheby’s in Paris in September, to mark the bicentenary of his death. It’s been listed at between £341,000 and £512,000.

Five of the best


Wiblingen Monastery Library, Germany

Founded in 1093 as a residence for Benedictine monks, Wiblingen Abbey has at various times been home to a duke, soldiers and post-Second World War refugees. A masterpiece of rococo architecture, the library itself was added in 1744 to be a “repository for the treasures of wisdom and science”.

Vennesla Library, Norway

Completed in 2011, Norway’s “low-energy” Vennesla Library was constructed using 27 giant geometric wooden ribs that are not only part of the roof but also provide shelves and seating areas. More than a cultural space, the building is a community centre, too.

Tianjin Binhai Library, China

Nicknamed the Eye, Tianjin Binhai Library houses 1.2 million books and a spherical auditorium, which can be found inside its “iris”. Designed by a Dutch architectural firm and built in just three years, it opened in 2017.

National Library of Belarus

Built in 1922, the National Library of Belarus, in Minsk, lost more than three-quarters of its books in the Second World War. The entrance resembles an open book while the main structure is built in the style of a Belarusian diamond, to symbolise the value of knowledge.

Biblioteca Vasconcelos, Mexico

Dedicated to José Vasconcelos, philosopher and former president of the National Library of Mexico, Mexico City’s Biblioteca Vasconcelos cost $98 million to build. It was inaugurated in 1946 and is described locally as a “megalibrary” due to its size (409,000 square feet) and cultural significance.


Olympics noted 16.7

The Tokyo Olympics aren’t the first to be problematic, says Andrew Lawrence in The Guardian. The 1904 Games, held in St Louis, Missouri, were a shambles. Only 12 nations showed up and the host nation won 238 medals, 223 more than second-placed Germany. A gymnast with a wooden leg won six medals, swimming heats were held in an asymmetrical lake and the marathon runners were limited to only two water breaks – one runner was also chased by wild dogs. The gold medal was almost awarded to a New York bricklayer who had hitchhiked for much of the race.


She’s wearing … leafy greens

This cropped light green zip-up top from Mango is water-repellent and made from 100% recycled polyester. It’s £36, and there are matching sports shorts for £30 if you’re tempted to go full Olympian wannabe.

They’re versatile … silk scarves

“The beauty of a silk scarf is its versatility,” writes Emilia Petrarca for The Cut. Wear one on your head, round your neck or as a top. Feeling flush? This Hermès printed scarf will set you back £355. Otherwise, snap up Arket’s lilac silk square, £39, or an apricot-print scarf by & Other Stories for £27.

They’re unisex … Muji plimsolls 

The one-stop Japanese shop Muji is home to just about everything, says Hannah Skelley in The Times. It sells stationery, candles and “the perfect white plimsolls”, which suit everyone and cost less than £20.

They’re fake … freckles

“If you haven’t been blessed with this ultimate beauty accessory, don’t fret!” says Mercedes Viera in Refinery29. Freckles are easy to fake. Try Freck Beauty’s fake-freckle pen – which does exactly what it says on the tin. Easy to apply, easy to remove. £17.

Design your own … Lotus Emira

Last week Lotus unveiled the Emira, its first new car in 12 years. Through its website you can play designer and choose your own paint colour, “black pack”, interior trim and wheel designs. Get your deposits in now – deliveries are expected to start next spring. From under £60,000.


On the money

The freshmen are revolting at Goldman

A bust-up at Goldman Sachs after the firm “conspicuously declined” to increase the pay of junior bankers is “not really about money”, says the Financial Times’s Lex column. Since an anonymous memo was circulated by disgruntled first-year Goldmanites in March, detailing the “indignities” of toiling away 24/7 from home amid the pandemic, banks across Wall Street have been bending over backwards to make a better offer to their “bantam bankers”. Some are trying new perks: Jeffries offered junior analysts a free Peloton exercise bike, Citigroup promised “Zoom-free Fridays”. But mostly, they’ve boosted pay. The typical salary for juniors has risen from $85,000 to $100,000. Goldman, run by “tough” chief exec (and occasional electronic dance music DJ) David Solomon, is a notable holdout.

From the archives

The Open

Golf lovers have flocked to Sandwich, Kent, this week for the 149th Open championship. Thankfully, the weather has been better than it was in 1938, when gales ripped apart the large exhibition tent and disrupted the competition.

Desert Island Discs

Ernie Wise

A new book, Sunshine and Laughter, celebrates the comedy genius of the BBC’s most popular double act, Morecambe and Wise. Their success didn’t come early. Ernie Wise, in fact, started in a different double act – Carson and Kid – with his father, a Leeds railway porter, he told Sue Lawley on Desert Island Discs in 1990. He first took to the stage, aged seven, in red clogs, singing I’m Knee Deep in Daisies. The pair doubled the family income performing at Labour clubs at the weekend. When education authorities in Leeds threatened to prosecute his father for child exploitation, they simply moved to Bradford.

Quirks of history

Quirks of history 16.7

The winners of the 1966 World Cup earned about £80 a week and received a mere £1,000 bonus after their victory. When their football careers ended, they all had to get ordinary jobs. Geoff Hurst retrained as an insurance salesman after a brief spell on the dole, says the Telegraph. He recalls: “My wife would pretend to be a potential client and I would practise my door-to-door sales technique, trying to sell her life insurance.” Bobby Moore was given the position of sports editor of the Sunday Sport, Ray Wilson became an undertaker and, for a short time, Gordon Banks found himself selling raffle tickets outside a local supermarket.


13 July: St Petersburg, Russia, 31C 🏐

13 July: Banstead, Surrey, 22C 🌈

15 July: Erdorf, Germany, 18C 🌊

14 July: Salgotarjan, Hungary, 23C ⛈️

9 July: Krakow, Poland, 31C ⛅

10 July: Chamonix, France, 23C 🏔️

11 July: Amritsar, India, 30C 🏊

11 July: Death Valley National Park, California, 38C 💀