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4-10 June 2021

Westminster wedding

Carrie takes centre stage

“First the gold wallpaper. Now the gold wedding band,” says Hilary Rose in The Times. Carrie Symonds, 33, has become Carrie Johnson after the surprise wedding in Westminster Cathedral on Saturday. She walked down the aisle in a bohemian-looking wedding dress rented for £45 and wore a Maid Marian-style flower crown rather than a veil. A hippie-themed party in the Downing Street garden followed, featuring hay bales, bunting and a singalong to Don McLean’s American Pie. The wedding – a conveniently cheap affair for the cash-strapped PM, given the 30-person Covid limit – was reportedly six months in the planning. Decoy dresses were ordered and a 2022 RSVP was sent out to throw people off the scent. It’s the first time a prime minister has got married in office for 199 years.


Counting the cost of a year’s lost learning

Another schools row has blown up under Boris Johnson “like a laser-guided missile”, says Alex Wickham in Politico. After the Tories announced a “paltry” £1.5bn to help pandemic-hit pupils catch up on learning, the PM’s furious educational “catch-up” tsar, Kevan Collins, quit on Wednesday. But he didn’t go quietly: he blasted No 10’s “half-hearted approach” for failing “hundreds of thousands of pupils”. The sum on offer is a fraction of the £15bn Collins recommended to provide extra tuition and longer school days – and disadvantaged children in “red wall” seats will suffer most from the lack of public funding. What an open goal for Labour.

Global Update

Tomorrow’s world

Miracles of the genetics age

“Sometimes it takes a cataclysm to move the world,” says Tom Whipple in The Times. Thirty years ago, scientist Katalin Kariko dreamt it might be possible to use a genetic code called RNA to hack the body to cure disease. She didn’t think for a second it would happen in her lifetime. Then, in December 2019, at a wet market in Wuhan, the pandemic struck – and more or less overnight her dream began to turn into the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.


Quoted Noel Gallagher 4.6

“Mr Gallagher, I suspect you had worse hangovers in the 1990s.”

A Covid vaccinator when Noel Gallagher inquired about side effects

Inside politics

Downing Street’s other power couple

Dougie Smith and Munira Mirza are Downing Street’s “second couple”, says Matt d’Ancona in Tortoise. Smith’s age can only be narrowed down to 57 or 58, and only one blurry photo of him exists online. He’s stuck around the Conservative party for years, as David Cameron’s speechwriter and a party HQ activist under Theresa May. Now he’s Boris Johnson’s organiser and fixer, who helped draw up the pro-Brexit list of Tory candidates in the 2019 election. He also used his talent for “vetting people” at Fever , a sex party business.


Noted Utah 4.6

Two sisters in Utah, aged 9 and 4, stole their parents’ car so they could drive to California to go to the beach and “swim with dolphins”. The girls sideswiped a car, then collided with a truck, causing its driver to call the police – who were “surprised” to find a child at the wheel. Nobody was harmed during the joyride and both children were wearing seatbelts.


MacKenzie Scott

Turning her back on the billionaire life

MacKenzie Scott is giving away money faster than ever, says Belinda Luscombe in Time. Since she divorced Amazon founder Jeff Bezos – and gained 4% of the tech giant’s stock – she has donated $5.9bn in a matter of months, no strings attached. One day Leah Barrett, the president of a Nebraskan community college, got an email from an anonymous philanthropist. The next thing I knew, she told Luscombe, Scott had given me $15m. She wanted nothing in return.

Grace Spence Green

Crushed by a falling man

The lowest moment for Grace Spence Green was “when doctors told her she would not be able to walk again”, says Emine Saner in The Guardian. In 2018, aged 22, the trainee doctor was walking through a London shopping centre when she was crushed by a falling man who had vaulted over a third-floor barrier. She needed an eight-hour operation on her spinal cord and fractured neck. It was surreal, she says, to wake up “when I didn’t think I was asleep”.


Quoted Kate Winslet 4.6

“Guys, I know how many lines I have by the side of my eye, please put them all back.”

Kate Winslet to Mare of Easttown’s promo poster designers, quoted in The New York Times

After Hours

The cottage

There’s a fairytale feel to Addisford, a 17th-century thatched cottage in the Devon countryside, half an hour from Okehampton. Two streams flow through its 11 acres of gardens, woodland, water meadows and pasture. It has four bedrooms, four bathrooms, a timber-framed kitchen and living space, an original oak staircase and a heated indoor pool. £1.75m.

The townhouse

This Grade II listed Georgian townhouse is next to an antiquarian bookshop in Lewes, East Sussex, 15 minutes from Brighton on the train. It has five bedrooms, a large dining room, an arched cellar and period fireplaces. The kitchen leads out to a sunny terrace with views over the large walled garden to the church and the South Downs. £1.65m.

The fixer-upper

This Grade II listed farmhouse in Chrishall, Essex, is set in almost an acre of gardens, with a moat that’s thought to date back to the Iron Age. The four-bedroom house needs refurbishment, but has a cellar, exposed beams, an inglenook fireplace and countryside views. It’s being auctioned on 9 June, with a guide price of £600,000.

The hideaway

The Portuguese property market is “booming”, says The Times, although Portugal has now dropped off the travel green list. This three-bedroom villa is in Tavira, known as the Venice of the Algarve, with easy access to beautiful beaches and the Ria Formosa Natural Park. It has a wraparound terrace, a pool, a gym in the annexe and manicured gardens. Faro airport is half an hour away. €1.8m.

The pied-à-terre

This one-bedroom flat is on the first floor of a Grade II listed stucco villa in Little Venice, west London – a short stroll from the Regent’s Canal and less than a mile from Hyde Park. It has high ceilings, floor-to-ceiling bay windows in the open-plan living area, a store room and a shared garden. £875,000.


Noted Israel 4.6

With the pandemic in Israel all but over, a bus company has converted its fleet’s hand sanitiser dispensers so they give out suncream instead. “Of course,” says the Israeli writer Arieh Kovler on Twitter, “hand sanitiser was basically useless against an airborne virus anyway.”


Quoted Castro 4.6

“Raúl Castro is 90 today [Thursday]. He was DEPUTY head of the army, VICE president of Cuba, for decades in his brother’s shadow. It can’t have been easy always playing second Fidel.”

The author Peter Cardwell on Twitter

Five of the best



The president of the UAE, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, splashed $600m on the largest superyacht ever built. Despite its vast size, the 590ft vessel zips along at speeds of more than 30 knots thanks to a water-jet propulsion system. There’s a golf training room and the interiors were inspired by the salons of 19th-century France.


Twice the length of a football pitch, this 531ft, $1.5bn superyacht is a suitably extravagant floating palace for the billionaire owner of Chelsea FC, Roman Abramovich. It has 24 bedrooms, two pools, a disco hall and two helipads, as well as a missile detection system and bulletproof windows.

Sailing Yacht A

Russian industrialist Andrey Melnichenko paid $440m for this futuristic sailing yacht, designed in typically idiosyncratic style by Philippe Starck. It’s 469ft long, with near-invisible windows, and each of the carbon-fibre masts is taller than Big Ben’s tower. For up-close ocean views the underwater observation pod features one of the largest pieces of curved glass ever made.


Named after its home country, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum’s $400m, 531ft superyacht has a helipad, a mosaic swimming pool, hot tubs and a circular staircase with glass steps that change colour. There are even VIP areas for extra-special guests.


Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s $600m, 439ft yacht has a distinctive navy trim, seawater and chlorine pools, a steam room, a snow room and an underwater viewing deck. MBS is rumoured to have kept the world’s most expensive artwork, Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi, on board.


Noted Jordan 4.6

Early every morning, trucks selling gas cylinders drive through Jordanian towns and cities, blasting a tinny version of Beethoven’s Für Elise through their speakers. It’s to alert potential customers who need gas for cooking and heating water, and is the country’s “second biggest melody after the call to prayer”, artist Johnny Amore tells The Economist. An April survey found that 53% of Jordanians would prefer to order through their smartphones.


Finally it’s… bikini weather

Good news: summer has arrived at last, and Zara has some great bikinis for sale. Brave the dodgy tan lines and try this criss-cross lime set – £17.99 for the top, £14.99 for the bottoms. Place by the sea not included.

We’re riding… wooden bellyboards

The eco-conscious are turning to wooden bellyboards to save the coastline from the “tidal wave of cheap polystyrene bodyboards being dumped on beaches in their thousands”, says Will Humphries in The Times. Enjoy surfing the sustainable way with Dick Pearce’s range, available in a host of bright colours. From £50.

Obsessed with… vintage travel posters

“The allure of vintage travel posters is still palpable,” says Ruth Caven in the FT – particularly when we’re all desperate to go on holiday. Pick up a wonderful midcentury number from Travel on Paper. We love the 1970 Pan Am Russia (£650), the 1961 Twa Jets Paris (£750) and the 1951 Pyrenees (£350).

It’s for children… & Other Stories

The first kids’ collection from & Other Stories includes this floral embroidery dress, a white ruffled top and shorts combo, and a pink bandeau dress. Each piece matches with an adult dress, so you can twin with your daughter. Should you wish to go there. From £27.

We’re loving… Issy Granger Designs

British designer Issy Granger marries “antique artisanship with modern-day craft”, says Maison Flâneur’s magazine. Brighten up your interiors with her handblown Egyptian glass candlesticks, from £38, or kilim cushions, £120.


“These children would have been killed by the Nazis”

It’s 112 years since British banker Sir Nicholas Winton was born. In the months before the Second World War broke out, he rescued hundreds of Jewish children from German-occupied Czechoslovakia. Here he is on the BBC’s That’s Life in 1988.

Quirks of history

Quirks of history wine in French schools 4.6

Alcohol consumption used to be encouraged in French classrooms, as it was believed it would warm the chest of a child suffering from a cold. Parents often put a bottle of something in their offspring’s basket to take to school. The practice was banned in 1956 – but only for the under-14s. Until 1981 older children were allowed to drink up to an eighth of a litre of wine with their lunch.


3 June: Luanping, China, 26C 🌅

29 May: Alicante, Spain, 25C 🌞

30 May: Gurugram, India, 32C 🛵

28 May: Gaza Beach, 29C 🌊

1 June: Knutsford, Cheshire, 19C 🛶

2 June: Dangxiong, Tibet, 23C ☁️

30 May: Puebla, Mexico, 27C ⛰️

30 May: Krasnoyarsk, Russia, 0C ❄️