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All the week’s wisdom in one place
21-27 May 2021

The pandemic

Mixed signals for holidaymakers

Here comes the Indian “scariant”, says Allison Pearson in The Daily Telegraph. Brits who had allowed themselves to relax and make plans for the first time in more than a year suddenly felt a panicky twinge: “Hang on – maybe we shouldn’t. There’s that Indian variant…” But just in case you’re worrying about a “tsunami of Covid patients” in viral hotspots such as Bolton and Blackburn, where vaccine hesitancy is irksomely high, “I make it 27” from the NHS data.


Quoted Nancy Adimora 21.05

“Not trying to diminish its role in the solar system or anything, but the sun literally has one job. ONE. I don’t know why it finds it so hard to shine in MAY. Big big sun and you can’t fight your ways through a few clouds? Embarrassing.”

Nancy Adimora on Twitter


Taking sides in the culture war

Public discourse is heading back to the Dark Ages, says Janet Daley in the Telegraph. The nice thing about the Cold War was that people knew what they stood for. It was hell, but it was at least it was a “rational conflict” between Marxist and capitalist ideas, examined “on their merits”. Now warring sides simply try to “destroy, or prohibit, or totally suppress the other”. We know when we’ve seen all this before in the West. If you oppose belief with reason, you are hunted down or banished. Galileo must be turning in his grave.


Disinformation dozen noted 21.05

Just 12 individuals create the majority of disinformation about Covid vaccines on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, according to new research. “The ‘Disinformation Dozen’ produce 65% of the shares of anti-vaccine misinformation on social media platforms,” said Imran Ahmed of the Center for Countering Digital Hate. They include well-known anti-vaccine activists, alternative health entrepreneurs and physicians.

Dick Van Dyke

My cockney accent was quite atrocious

Life at 95 is rosy, says Dick Van Dyke in The Washington Post. Sure, “it’s kind of odd being the age where you can die in your sleep”, but the actor doesn’t dwell on it. “I don’t want to waste a minute when I could be enjoying life.” And there’s plenty to enjoy. This year he won one of America’s top arts prizes – a Kennedy Center Honor. “How did I get to a Kennedy award? You know, I never trained or did anything. I just enjoyed myself.”

Angela Rayner

I’m ready to pounce – on Boris, not Keir

Why can’t Angela Rayner dress properly, wonders Camilla Long in The Sunday Times. There she was, pounding the streets during the Hartlepool by-election in leopard-print leggings, chunky black boots and a hoodie. Why didn’t Keir Starmer “just tell her her clothes looked as though they’d been rescued from a flash fire in a Sicilian brothel, before giving the seditious moaner the boot?” Rayner herself doesn’t understand the fuss.


quoted jackie weaver 21.05

“I don’t know why or when it became unacceptable to be ordinary. If we all want to be pop stars, we have a problem because someone has to keep the lights on.”

Jackie Weaver, interviewed by Etan Smallman in the Telegraph


You have to admire Putin’s puck

Vladimir Putin knows how to hit a hockey puck, says Marc Nexon in Le Point. The 68-year-old Russian president scored eight of his team’s 13 goals in a gala match at the Bolshoi Ice Palace in Sochi last week, with a backdrop of “smoke cannons, trumpets, balloons and commentators as excited as Brazilian football journalists”. Putin, wearing a distinctive white helmet, made the most of the “caviar” – easy opportunities – served up by the opposition.


Chicken brains noted 21.05

Chicken brains are the key to a long life, says Australia’s oldest man, Dexter Kruger. The retired farmer, who is 111 years and 128 days old, swears by the brains as an age-defying snack – and eating them isn’t as grisly as you’d think. “You know, chickens have a head. And in there there’s a brain,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “They are delicious little things. There’s only one little bite.”

Everyone’s watching


There’s lots of “trashy fun” to be had in Halston, says Anita Singh in the Telegraph. Ewan McGregor has a blast as “the coke-snorting, rent boy-humping” 1970s superstar designer Roy Halston, hamming up every bitchy putdown for laughs. “I know that Max Factor used to be something back in the day, when the Earth was still cooling,” he says to one hapless fashionista. An engineer called in to fix a faulty phone reveals that so much cocaine has been dropped down the receiver, “it oxidised the wires”.


What the critics liked

When Hugo Vickers was chosen by Cecil Beaton to write his biography in January 1980, it seemed nothing could go wrong, says John Walsh in The Sunday Times. They met, “got on well, the contract was signed… and then, two days into the project, Beaton died”. Undeterred, Vickers proceeded to interview the “multitude of royal, rich, aristocratic, creatively connected or sexually linked” people in Beaton’s “vast social acquaintance”. Published in 1985, the book was a huge success.


Mishal Husain quoted 21.05

“We did ask the BBC to give us a representative for an interview this morning, but no one was available”

Mishal Husain on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, referring to the Martin Bashir inquiry

The castle

Built between 1905 and 1917 for the Duchess of Sutherland, Carbisdale Castle was a Highland refuge for the Norwegian royals during the Second World War. An hour north of Inverness, the 19-bedroom property has a private loch and views of two rivers. The Far North railway line stops in Culrain, near the end of the castle’s drive. £1.5m.

The townhouse

This five-bedroom house in Clapham, south London, has been renovated to make the most of its proportions. It has a front garden with olive trees, a drawing room, a snug, working fireplaces and an open-plan kitchen-diner with French doors to a walled garden. Clapham Common and the Tube are a stone’s throw away. £2.25m.

The hideaway

An hour’s drive from Aix-en-Provence and Avignon, this four-bedroom house is set in half an acre of landscaped grounds, with a pool and panoramic views of the Lubéron region. Built in the 18th century, it has shuttered windows, a large fireplace in the living room and a freestanding bathtub in the main bedroom. €2.495m.

The pied-à-terre

You get views of Margate harbour from this recently renovated top-floor flat in a handsome house that was built as a seaside retreat for the “Grand Old” Duke of York in 1788. In a prime spot on The Parade, it has two large double bedrooms and a window seat in the light-filled sitting room. £379,000.

The cottage

Dating from the 16th century, Grade II listed Linton House is on the high street in Swaffham Bulbeck, an attractive village eight miles east of Cambridge. It has four bedrooms, two bathrooms with rolltop tubs, a kitchen with an Aga in the fireplace, a conservatory, a cellar and a library. There’s a paved terrace in the back garden and a studio above the garage. £875,000.


Death penalty noted 21.05

South Carolina is forcing prisoners on death row to choose between a firing squad and the electric chair if a lethal injection is not available. It is one of 27 US states that still have the death penalty; the last execution there took place in 2011.

Lost and found masterpieces

Klimt’s Portrait of a Lady

Painted in 1916-17, this symbolist work was stolen in 1997 from a gallery in Piacenza, Italy. Extraordinarily, it was unearthed in the same place 22 years later – gardeners found it in a binbag in the gallery’s exterior wall. The canvas has a portrait of a different woman underneath: she had died suddenly and Klimt apparently overpainted her image to escape the pain of her death.

Caravaggio’s Judith Beheading Holofernes

The story behind this gruesome biblical scene, painted circa 1607, is “the stuff of a Dan Brown novel”, says Artnet. Lost in 1689, it was rediscovered in 2014 by a Toulouse auctioneer, having spent at least a century “leaning against a wall in a dark, cluttered, leaky attic”. In 2019, days before it was due to be auctioned for up to $170m, it was snapped up by a private buyer. And there are still doubts over whether it is authentic.

Vincent van Gogh’s Sunset at Montmajour

This masterpiece from 1888 was kept in a Norwegian industrialist’s attic between 1901 and 1970 after he was told it was a fake. The Van Gogh Museum refused to authenticate it until 2013, even though the artist described it vividly in a letter to his brother Theo. Analysis showed pigments identical to those Van Gogh used on his palette.

Tiepolo’s Portrait of a Lady as Flora

Thought to have been commissioned by Empress Elizabeth of Russia circa 1760, this is a rare Tiepolo painting of a beautiful woman in fancy dress. It was banished to an attic by a prudish 18th-century owner, but sold at auction for £2.8m in 2008. Christie’s, which handled the sale, noted that “her long absence from public scrutiny has had its blessings” – the picture was unusually well preserved.

Rembrandt’s Unconscious Patient (Allegory of Smell)

Painted in 1624-25, this small early work was discovered in a New Jersey basement in 2015. It was covered in dirt and yellow varnish, but after cleaning the artist’s brilliant palette was revealed. It sold for $870,000 at auction that year – rather better than the $500-$800 estimate. A private buyer later snapped it up for $3m-$4m.


Oligarch noted 21.05

The ex-wife of a Russian oligarch has hired former SBS operatives to seize her ex-husband’s superyacht. The capture is part of Tatiana Akhmedova’s mission to recover her unpaid divorce settlement: Farkhad Akhmedov still owes her £450m. The divorce was exceptionally acrimonious. In London’s High Court last month, Justice Gwynneth Knowles said: “The Akhmedov family is one of the unhappiest ever to have appeared in my courtroom.”

Ottolenghi’s serving up … tableware

Celebrity chef Yotam Ottolenghi has launched his first tableware collection, Feast, with Italian artist Ivo Bisignano and the interior design company Serax. It includes colourful plates illustrated with peppers or artichokes (£60 each) and exudes a sense of “outrageous casualness”.

We’re loving… Pink City Prints

Pick up the perfect summer dress from the latest Pink City Prints collection. Each one is handspun, printed or embroidered by artisans in Jaipur, India. This white cotton dress, £165, can be worn with sandals all day and evening.

They’re back… resin rings

This season’s coolest Gen Z accessory has been seen on Miley Cyrus, Dua Lipa and Bella Hadid, says The Sunday Times. Depop has seen an 800% increase in searches for resin rings since September and even fine jewellers such as Tessa Packard are “reviving the Noughties aesthetic”. Daisy rings from Etsy, £9.10 each.

Skip to it… high-tech ropes

The Tangram Smart Rope is like a skipping rope, but a million times more hi-tech. The handles have built-in sensors that monitor calorie burn and time workouts. It’s yours for £60, but if that’s too steep, Dope Ropes has standard skipping kit from £18.

It’s timeless… Westwood’s pearl choker

Vivienne Westwood’s Bas Relief pearl chokers are “the epitome of all that’s royally rambunctious about the brand”, says Vogue. They first appeared on the catwalk in 1987, a decade before Dua Lipa, who wore one to the Brits, was even born. As Westwood says: “Long live the orb.” £340.

Legs out for a… short shorts summer

“It’s going to be a short shorts summer,” says GQ. Inspired by Harry Styles and Paul Mescal, men are slipping into thigh-skimming shorts that would give the late George Michael a run for his money. This Adidas x Wales Bonner collab (£130) is sporty and stylish, while Officine Générale’s belted linen shorts do the job (£165).


From the archives

When Lulu married Maurice

It’s Eurovision this weekend, but the UK’s entrant is unlikely to emulate Lulu’s success in 1969. The Scottish singer married Bee Gee Maurice Gibb just weeks before winning the competition with Boom Bang-a-Bang. Watch her performance here.

Quirks of history

Quirk of history Beryl Burton 21.05

Yorkshire-born cyclist Beryl Burton won her first world title in 1959 with the motto: “Anything lads can do, I can do.” She held the coveted title of British Best All-Rounder for 25 years and covered 277.25 miles in a 12-hour time trial in 1967, beating male rival Mike McNamara – she chucked him a consolation Liquorice allsort as she cycled past. When she was pipped to a national road race title at 39 by her 20-year-old daughter, Denise, she couldn’t bring herself to offer congratulations. But six years later they teamed up to shatter a British 10-mile tandem record.

May 16: Ilulissat, Greenland, 1C ❄️

May 18: Moscow, 31C 👙

May 17: Mumbai, India, 25C ☔

May 16: Nanning, China, 34C 🌈

May 18: Protaras, Cyprus, 28C 🌞

May 18: Lishui, China, 24C 🌊

May 17: Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, 10C 🐶