Speed 21 July 2017

What’s the scariest thing you can imagine? Giant spiders? Peering into the molten crater of a volcano a few seconds before eruption? A date with a member of the Cabinet? Well, as terrifying as this hastily-arranged list of three scary things may be, they’re small fry compared to the stupefying thought of a woman playing a role on a television programme that’s up until now been played by man.

We know right? Chilling. Sorry to lay that on you on a Friday afternoon.

All this fear was of course engendered by the somewhat awkward segue on the BBC last Sunday from Roger Federer’s nonchalant battering of his opponent in the Wimbledon final to the announcement of Jodie Whittaker as the new Doctor Who by having her walk through a wood in a cape.

Dalek-fanciers were largely positive because a) Jodie Whittaker is a superb actor, b) It’s about time the show had a new direction and c) it’s MADE UP and there’s NO SUCH THING as two-hearted time lords who fly around space in boxes. However, that didn’t stop something of a furore online and in some of the Monday newspapers. In amongst some low-scoring puns – “Nice to meet Who” (Telegraph), “DocHer Who” (The Sun) – the Express asked “Are they too PC at the BBC?” (the answer to which was to be revealed as ‘goodness me, absolutely not’ later in the week) and The Daily Mail’s (male) TV critic contributed 2000 words to posterity on the subject, including the line:

“Perhaps it’s my age, but there are some things I don’t feel happy discussing with a female doctor, and saving the world is one of them”.

We don’t think he was joking.

Brexit returned to the headlines this week as the second round of negotiations between plucky Minister for Exiting the EU David “David” Davis and EU chief negotiator Michel “Tempus Fugit” Barnier in Brussels. For all the smiles at the accompanying press conferences, reports suggest that there are still some significant differences between the two sides on many of the key issues. Davis himself was criticised in some newspapers for attending the first meeting for less than hour which, given the size and complexity of the task, was felt to be a little bit on the slack side. However, in an exclusive extract from the meeting transcript obtained (made up) by The Friday Speed Read, we can reveal that Mr Davis did at least do his best to negotiate in a spirit of friendliness and co-operation.

Michel                 Hello David Davis.

DD                       Bonjour. Je m’appelle David et J’habite a La Rochelle.

Michel                 You want to do this in French?

DD                       J’aime le foot et le Brexit. Pour aller a la piscine s’il vous plait?

Michel                 You want to go for a swim?

DD                       Oui. Er, non. J’ai un chat. Elle s’appelle Theresa.

Michel                Should we not talk about the rights of EU nationals? The Irish border? The stack of cash you owe us?

DD                      Merci. Au revoir. J’ai un avion to catch.

And with that he was off, heading back to the safety of the UK, with its decreasing pace of life expectancy, acid attacks on the emergency services and soaring crime rates (murders up 26% on last year – lovely), to tell his boss that these Brexit negotiations were a cinch.

Before we reach the other main story of the week, let’s just cast our news net to trawl some other of the week’s headlines. So, in no particular order Royal Kate wants another baby says The Sun; you can beat Alzheimer’s by drinking lots of olive oil says The Express and the phrase “There’s a fifty pence charge for using a card, is that okay?” will no longer be heard in corner shops (or anywhere else for that matter) after it was announced that such fees will be illegal from January

In other thrift news, all the papers reported that the charge for crossing into Wales / Cymru via either of the Severn bridges will be scrapped from next year.  This means all travellers to Wales will be able to save a little more each week for their retirement, assuming that they make it that far given the announcement on Thursday that the pension age will rise to 68.

But the biggest story of the week by far has been the publishing of BBC salaries and the revelation that that an institution regularly criticised for being “too PC” by its detractors (see paragraph 3) is in fact still bravely flying the flag for regressive and sexist pay policies. It turns out that the bloke that plumps the cushions and tousles Matt Baker’s hair on The One Show earns more than Emily Maitliss (*checks notes); actually that’s not true but what IS true is that male earnings at the Beeb are far in excess of female salaries.

Whether you think Gary Lineker is worth the £1.8M he’s paid for asking Alan Shearer “That was a good goal wasn’t it?” and “Do you think Spurs are better at football than another team that isn’t as good as them at football?” every week on Match of the Day is a question for your conscience but what’s certain is that Clare Balding (“That was a good tennis shot wasn’t it Boris?”) has every right to be mightily cheesed off that she’s bringing home over a million quid less.

‘Highlights’ of the newspaper coverage on the salary revelations included the Daily Star which angrily shouted “Mind the Pay Gap!” next to picture of a busty girl in a bikini. Ah, the joy of juxtaposition.

By the time you read this the school holidays will have begun so clearly the weather is taking a massive turn for the worse; but 61% of the population will have predicted this because they’ve seen cows lying down in a field. Sorry Met Office, The Times reported on Wednesday that vast numbers of us still trust lazy cows as reliable indicators of prevailing meteorological conditions.

Yep, turns out cows are experts in their field.

Have a great weekend.

(not many songs about cows – apart from this one from 1991. Which, fortunately, is quite good).