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All the week’s wisdom in one place
14-20 May 2021


New tensions in an old conflict

My wife, six children and I have taken to huddling in our living room, says Refaat Alareer in The New York Times. We reckon that’s “the place least likely to take a stray hit from Israeli missiles”. Part of me wants to take the kids outside, so we’re not “sitting ducks” – but at least at home we would “die together”. This is life in Gaza, where Israeli missiles are raining down on us once again. Our children are being killed: 31 at the last count, along with 88 adults. Our homes and infrastructure are being destroyed. And with talk growing of an Israeli land invasion, the population is “living in constant dread”.

UK politics

Now the Tories need to look south

On the surface “the Tories are sitting pretty”, says Sherelle Jacobs in The Daily Telegraph. As Boris Johnson leads their “remorseless advance into former socialist heartlands”, there’s talk of an early election in 2023 to press home their advantage. Some predict the PM could even beat Margaret Thatcher’s “11-year reign”. But down in the leafy south, Labour, the Lib Dems and the Greens have been making gains on local councils. The flight of Labour-leaning urban voters to rural Tory seats is being accelerated by working from home and the percentage of graduates in the population is rising. Pitching themselves as the “party of non-metropolitans” looks like a “no-brainer” for the Conservatives – actually, it’s a “ticking time bomb”.

Middle East

Biden can’t stand back from the carnage

Joe Biden wants to “stand back” from war in the Middle East, says Josie Ensor in The Daily Telegraph. But just as he “tried desperately” to pull troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan, and take a back seat in Syria, Afghanistan and the Gaza Strip erupted. A vicious school bombing in Kabul last weekend killed more than 60 people and injured 150, mostly schoolgirls. And Democrat Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has begged Biden to “step in and de-escalate to stop the carnage” as Israeli jets pound buildings to rubble in Gaza and Hamas rockets fly into Jerusalem. While he was fixing America’s leaky roof – a tanking economy and catastrophic unemployment – a sinkhole appeared in the backyard.


quoted David Cameron 14.05

“Anyone I know even at all well, I tend to sign off text messages with ‘love DC’. I don’t know why, I just do – my children tell me you don’t need to sign off text messages at all and it’s very old-fashioned and odd to do so. But, anyway, that’s what I do.”

David Cameron

Inside politics

Teesside’s Mr Fixit

Ben Houchen, the Teesside mayor who was re-elected with a “whopping” 73% of the vote last week, has imagination, verve, and vision, says Will Hutton in The Observer. His “do it if it works” approach spans nationalising the local airport and creating the “deregulatory free-for-all” Teesside Freeport. He’s also getting on board with the green industrial revolution by setting up a plant to make wind turbines and backing a hydrogen transport hub. The result? A “self-reinforcing virtuous circle” of jobs and investment.


Van the Man: no lockdown fan

Most 21st-century Van Morrison albums haven’t made headlines, says Ryan Walsh in the Los Angeles Times. His new one has: Latest Record Project, Vol 1 is a 28-track double album filled with not-so-veiled conspiracy theories and anti-Semitic lyrics. A song called They Own the Media goes: “They control the narrative, they perpetuate the myth/Keep on telling you lies, tell you ignorance is bliss.” The white nationalist-tinged Western Man explains how the titular protagonist has let shadowy others “steal his rewards”.


Noted strip clubs 14.05

The controversy over vaccine passports means they’re unlikely to be required for pubs and restaurants, but they will be needed for strip clubs when they reopen in June, says Harry Cole in The Sun. “Adult entertainment venues” have joined stadiums and nightclubs on the vaccine passport list – although they’re hardly places where clients will be keen to hand over personal details, says Esther Webber in Politico.


Quoted Boris hug 14.05

“Whoever I hug, it will be done with caution and restraint.”

Boris Johnson on next week’s lifting of Covid restrictions


Quoted Leftie Zombies 14.5

“Ah the Left! If there was a zombie apocalypse, we’d all eat ourselves before the zombies did.”

Comedian Rosie Holt on Twitter


The country house

At the end of a mile-long drive, Grade II listed West Woodyates Manor is a “magnificent house surrounded by wonderful gardens”, says Country Life. Built in the 18th century by Thomas Pitt, “the diamond-smuggling adventurer” who founded the political dynasty, the 12-bedroom house is set in 970 acres of gardens and parkland, with a four-bedroom cottage, and is 11 miles from Salisbury. £18.5m.


The pied-à-terre

This one-bedroom flat is on a leafy street in the St John’s Wood conservation area, northwest London, within walking distance of Primrose Hill. It dates from the 1840s and original features such as floor-to-ceiling sash windows are complemented by contemporary paintwork and an open-plan kitchen and living area. £485,000.

The townhouse

Grade I listed Castle House, in the centre of Buckingham, has a Queen Anne façade, but dates from the Middle Ages. It has 10 bedrooms, eight bathrooms, seven receptions and a wealth of architectural features, from ornate chimney pieces to beamed ceilings. Outbuildings in the 1½-acre grounds include two cottages, a gym and a spa. It’s a 20-minute drive to Milton Keynes. £4m.

The cottage

Two-bedroom Wynwallow Cottage is less than a mile from Lizard Village and a short stroll from a glorious Cornish stretch of the South West Coast Path. Rethatched as part of a recent renovation, it has modern décor and a smart new kitchen with double doors to a sea-view terrace. Space is at a premium, but what there is is delightful. £400,000.

The hideaway

Foreign buyers are “scrambling to make investments” in Portugal, says The New York Times, and this light-filled retreat near the coast and Unesco-listed Sintra would be the perfect buy. The contemporary villa “all but disappears” into its rural surroundings in Colares, 25 miles west of Lisbon. It has five bedrooms, five bathrooms, a gym, a spa, a games room, gardens and a pool. €3m.


Noted travel company 14.05

The travel company is selling bottles of British rainwater to homesick expats in Australia and New Zealand. Each 500ml bottle costs £20 and comes with a showerhead-style nozzle, allowing users to pour the water over themselves for “an authentic feeling of British Isles weather”.


The great escape


“Lisbon is a city where the little things capture your heart more than any grand municipal projects,” says The Sunday Telegraph. The sun on the terracotta rooftops and azulejo tiles, the aroma of grilled sardines and the sound of ancient yellow trams creaking up steep hills combine to create “an edge-of-the-Continent vibe where the whispers of Old Europe mingle and cavort with the briny sea air of the Atlantic”. Portugal is one of the few countries on the government’s green list, so get booking.


Quoted lord Lebedev 14.05

“I will also be able to teach the House how to make a small fortune: start with a large fortune and buy a newspaper.”

Evgeny Lebedev makes his maiden speech in the House of Lords

5 of the best


Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye

The crystal-clear pools below this natural waterfall attract wild swimmers from across the globe. For those who don’t fancy an icy dip, the aquamarine waters are ideal for Instagram.

5 of the best

High Force, Co Durham

This 70ft waterfall in the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty sees the whole of the River Tees plunge over it in two stages. It’s not the tallest in England, but it has the largest volume of water falling over an unbroken drop – hence its Norse nickname, “High Fosse”.
5 of the best

Gaping Gill, North Yorkshire

On the slopes of Ingleborough, in the Yorkshire Dales, this cavern is 365ft deep – the largest in the UK, and big enough to hold a cathedral. It’s also home to Britain’s highest unbroken waterfall.
5 of the best

Glenariff Nature Reserve Waterfalls Walk, Co Antrim

Five miles from Northern Ireland’s glorious Causeway Coast, Glenariff Forest is 2,928 acres of rambling paradise. Stroll past majestic spruces en route to a trio of glorious waterfalls.

Pistyll Rhaeadr, Powys

The white waters and greenery at Britain’s highest single-drop waterfall provide a deceptive aura of calm – Pistyll Rhaeadr towers 240ft above ground, making it higher than Niagara Falls. It’s mentioned in an 18th-century poem listing Wales’s Seven Wonders.


Noted Grauniad 14.05

The Guardian turns 200 this year, and to celebrate it has revisited the typos and howlers for which it is famous. “Grauniad” cock-ups include renaming works by Vikram Seth (A Suitable Buy) and Shakespeare (The Taming of the Screw). The paper once republished an article by Finnish journalist “Jatkuu Seuraavalla Sivulla”; a reader advised that this means “Continued on the next page”. Even attempts to put things right can go wrong, as in 1999: “We misspelled the word misspelled twice, as mispelled, in the Corrections and clarifications column on September 26.”

Obsessed with… Loewe sunglasses

In these divisive times, “we can probably all agree on one objective fact”, says Andrew Nguyen in The Cut. “These Loewe sunglasses are really good.” The brightly coloured, goggle-style oblong frames will be everywhere this summer, at least in looky-likey versions – the real deal cost £280.


They’re driving… an electric Porsche

The new Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo offers “pace and space”, says Colin Goodwin in the Mirror. Expect four-wheel drive, a maximum range of 281 miles and loads of room for luggage. Prices start at £79,340 for the 4 Cross, but if you want to go from 0-62mph in 3.3 seconds, shell out £116,950 for the Turbo. For serious overtaking power, all have a “monster” overboost facility of 670bph.

We’re loving… Rixo loungewear

Rixo’s divine new loungewear collection “features PJ sets and nightdresses too good to save for bed”, says Grazia. This light blue midi dress, £165, could just as easily be worn to a picnic or on the beach. Other pieces come in floral and gingham prints, embellished with ruffle collars and puff sleeves.

They’ve launched… a new rosé

Following in the footsteps of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, husband-and-wife influencers Oliver Proudlock and Emma Louise Connolly have launched their first wine just in time for rosé season. Produced at a family-run vineyard in the heart of Provence, Quatre Vin is organically farmed, vegan-friendly and sustainable. The Instagram page is irresistibly sunny. From £15.99 a bottle.

We’re making… our own ice cream

Ben & Jerry’s began with a $5 course in homemade ice cream – who’s to say you won’t be next? All you need is an ice-cream machine. The pros rate the Magimix Gelato expert (£500), but if that’s too spendy, Smeg’s £99 offering works well and looks stylish. And Lakeland has bargain-hunters covered – this mini kit costs £20.

Sofa, so good

The cast of Friends are returning after 16 years for a hotly anticipated reunion show on 27 May. Here is one of their most famous scenes.

Quirks of history

Quirks of history feather trade 14.05

London was the centre of the world feather trade in the late Victorian era, says Malcolm Smith in History Today. Fashionable Englishwomen wore hats adorned with ostrich plumes and earrings decorated with jewel-coloured hummingbird heads, driving demand for the £20m-a-year trade – £2.5bn in today’s money. At least 200 million birds were killed every year for their skins, heads, wings and feathers. Trinidad exported 15,000 hummingbirds a week throughout the 19th century.

May 10: Pellworm, Germany, 16🌅

May 8: Shenyang, China, 15🌈

May 11: Khabarovsk, Russia, 7C 💧

May 10: Nice, France, 16☁️

May 9: Teltow, Germany 26☀️

May 13: Huggate, East Yorkshire, 15🌸