Speed 25 August 2017

Two weeks have elapsed since the last edition of The Friday Speed Read. Two weeks spent happily lodged beneath a sea of excellent cheese and a blanket of almost tolerable weather (certainly better than the feeble excuse for a summer on display in this United Kingdom of ours) and two weeks of  blissfully ignorance of what was making the headlines.

Nothing bad happened did it? Nothing that, say, would have put race relations back a few decades? No ill-advised pronouncements about the equivalence of extremism and those that oppose it? No “good guys” in white hoods with flaming torches? Nothing like that?

Good. We’re pleased. But in the current world, it’s as well to check.

Once the usual back-to-work office rituals had been observed: colleagues saying you look “really well”, which probably means you’ve eaten too much? – check; forgetting your Windows password (it turns out it isn’t “TFSR1234”)? – check; complaining how cold it is in the UK? – check, then it was time to get back on the News Horse ready for a gallop into the new week.

First up, much like a student flat ahead of a visit from parents, on Monday Big Ben was rendered bong-less. At least for the next four years. MPs, tourists and campanology fans stood on College Green and raised an ear to the sky to catch the final sounds from the legendary giant bell ahead of its silence during restoration works. TM the PM said it “can’t be right”. Big Ben said nothing.

Following another horrid act of murder on European soil, all the papers gave widespread coverage to the ongoing events in and around Barcelona. With the now-standard use of graphics and diagrams alongside photographs of the dead taken from their social media profiles, the UK media should be commended for ensuring the tragic regularity of these events in 2017 did not curtail or dull their reporting.

The start of the week also saw America playing host to one of nature’s more show-offy moments, as a total eclipse of the sun made its way across the continent from west to east. Such an event was never likely to pass without everyone’s favourite gold lift attendant gate-crashing the coverage. And lo, we give you DJT rejecting the required eyewear and tipping his golden-hair skywards before an aide shouted at him not to look.

A lot of people were very happy that this had happened. A LOT of people. Scientists particularly. Twitter positively exploded with glee:

It’s been a tough week for the country’s middle aged population as it was revealed that Baby Boomers are basically drunk for most of their waking hours. Well, that’s an exaggeration but statistics reported by basically everyone this week showed a tripling in the number of people over 50 admitted to hospital for drink-related conditions. All the while, the same report showed that their children and grandchildren are increasingly sober, looking on at their sozzled elders with mixture of worry and pity. Cheers.

If that wasn’t enough then it was also reported this week that a staggering (literally) 4 out of 10 over 40s don’t manage as much as a brisk 10-minute walk each month. That’s a lot of heart attacks waiting to happen.

Mind you, as Elon Musk and his buddies warned this week, heart attacks are the least of our worries given the likelihood of being murdered by a killer robot. Yep, yet another horseman of the apocalypse has appeared over the horizon and is and this one is made of metal like the Terminator.

The Star summed it up pretty succinctly:

“Killer robots will hunt mankind to extinction unless their development is halted right now” it shouted.

Elsewhere, the blanket Diana coverage continued unabated in many of the papers as the 20th anniversary of her death gets very close. The Daily Mail has taken to publishing a minute-by-minute recreation of the events leading up to the fatal crash and Wednesday saw several front pages reporting on an interview with William and Harry to be broadcast on the BBC this coming weekend. The main line from this interview seems to be that Prince Charles was incredibly loving towards his sons in the aftermath of their mother’s death.

The fact that there are many who seem to believe that this is a surprise probably says more about us as a nation than it does him.

Other news crumbs worth sweeping into our round-up dustpan this week included Channel 4’s preview of the first NEW Bake Off episode to journalists with the critical consensus being it’s really good, maybe even better than the original for its lack of the sections in which Mel and / or Sue go to country houses and talk about the history of the whisk. Ahead of the next round of Brexit “talks” in Brussels next week, TM the PM got into another Brexity muddle over the jurisdiction of the EU Supreme Court and on Friday many papers flagged concerns about proposed trials of convoys of driverless lorries on the UK’s motorways. The lorry up front controls its followers via wi-fi apparently and it’s all perfectly safe because of course it is. The Daily Mail disagrees.

Finally, a story that made every paper and news channel this week (so we’re not telling you anything you don’t already know) in which a Wiltshire farmer expressed his thanks to the local fire brigade for rescuing his pigs from a flaming barn in February via the gift of sausages. Sausages made from the pigs that had been saved. The firemen were delighted and recommended the sausages to anyone who might be barbecuing over the weekend. Some commentators on Twitter were less thrilled; “what’s wrong with a box of Roses?” asked one.

And that’s your lot. Enjoy the weekend and with the Mirror’s promise of “the worst rail and road chaos EVER” (their capitals, for once) it sounds like it will be a cracker. That said, the weather forecast is half decent so if you’ve any thank you gifts you want to barbecue than this may be the weekend to go for it.

There’s at least one decent eclipse song in the history of popular music – decent in the sense of a popular choice for a sozzled 1am karaoke session and here it is:

Have a great (long) weekend.