Speed 08 September 2017

For the second week running, we begin The Friday Speed Read by reflecting on the unrivalled, catastrophic power of nature. Following the submerging of large parts of Texas last week by Tropical Storm Harvey, we’re now witnessing Hurricane Irma lay waste to the scattered, tiny islands of the north Caribbean, all the while keeping to a trajectory that will see it making landfall in the most populous area of South Florida sometime on Saturday.

The mayor of Miami Beach Philip Levine has described Irma as a “nuclear hurricane” and indeed the images that have filled Friday’s newspapers of the islands through which the storm has passed have more than a hint of the apocalypse about them.

Meanwhile, Florida is preparing for the worst of possible outcomes with millions of people being evacuated and freeways clogging like a scene from a disaster movie. But like so much that’s happened in the past year, what seems like fiction, fantasy even, is terrifyingly, tangibly real.

Without a hint of hyperbole, this could be as bad as it gets.

All of which makes Monday’s panic about a possible nuclear war with North Korea seem somewhat benign in comparison. Which is of course an utterly absurd thing to say but when the present is so horrendous the future becomes a lot less of a worry. Especially when there was something darkly comic about the photographs of Kim Jung Un pointing at a nuclear warhead as if reading a children’s book. “That’s not my nuclear warhead – it’s paint is too flaky! That’s my nuclear warhead – it’s capable of reaching London, Sydney and California!”

There was a film called Threads made in 1984 about the UK’s utter failure to cope with the aftermath of a nuclear attack. We’d suggest not adding it to watch-list weekend. Maybe watch Moana again instead? (You’re welcome).

Aside from the end of the world, the other main topic of tabloid scrutiny at the start of the week was the perilous state of Wayne Rooney’s marriage following his arrest for drink driving alongside a “party girl”. The Sun pitched in with “Wayne thinks it’s all over” (2/10 – rubbish, doesn’t work) whereas The Star appealed to Rooney’s wife: “Forgive him Coleen, it was just harmless fun” and the Mail’s columnist Bel Mooney similarly urged Coleen to take her husband back –“he’s an idiot with an apology for a brain but he’s your idiot”. It’s decent piece actually; worth a read if you’ve got absolutely NOTHING else to do.

The Brexit saga continued this week in such an impenetrable fashion that it’s begun to resemble a film by David Lynch, full of twists, dark recriminations and moments of baffling surrealism that leave the viewer wondering what on earth they are watching. Let’s break out the bullet points and attempt to summarise the week without disappearing into a red room with cracked mirrors and a dancing David Davis (that will need Googling if you’re not a Twin Peaks fan)

– David “Double D” Davis told parliament that no one had said that the Brexit negotiations would be easy. Even though lots of people did including Liam Fox, Farage, Boris, Gove and DD himself

– The Guardian was given a draft of the government’s post-Brexit immigrations plans which suggested that low-skilled workers from the EU would only be allowed to come to the UK for a maximum of two years – the hospitality industry said that the effects of this would be catastrophic

– EU Commission leader Jean-Claude Junker called DD lazy and unskilled

– The Mail leapt to DD’s defence and told the EU – “Don’t treat us with contempt!”

– Brexit enthusiast MPs wrote to TM the PM urging her GO HARD on our departure from the EU

– Brexit sceptic MPs wrote to TM the PM to REIGN IT IN on our departure from the EU

– TM the PM wondered who on earth writes letters these days

– The Labour Party vowed to vote against the upcoming Brexit legislation because that’s going to help

– What’s left of the Independent published the funniest piece of the week (for Remainers only)

And those were just the ‘highlights’.

Thank goodness then for the House of Windsor. News of a third royal baby for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge was greeted with widespread swooning. The Daily Mail was at its most Daily Maily with its Tuesday front page: “We just can’t wait to meet baby number three” it simpered and, trembling with emotion, published “an unmissable picture pullout to celebrate her (Kate’s) gorgeous growing family”.

Elsewhere, Meghan Markle told a magazine that she and Prince Harry were in L-O-V-E (The Star – “I’m nuts about ginger” – 8/10 excellent) and on Friday, Prince George was pictured on nearly every front page on his first day of school. There were four pages of coverage in the Mail and the Sun proved that it’s punning mojo was still missing, presumed dead with its headline of “I’m heir to learn”.

Finally, there’s a new type of chocolate on the block, the first for 80 years. Barry Callebaut (the world’s largest producer of cocoa apparently, not a taxi driver from Croydon) unveiled Ruby chocolate this week; a new, natural chocolate colour (no colouring is used) to join the classic trio of white, dark and milk.  Barry says the flavour is “a tension between berry-fruitiness and luscious smoothness”. (But that’s Barry for you)

And, in the world as it stands on Friday 8th of September 2017, that’s just the kind of tension we need.

Here’s Hot Chocolate (not Pink Chocolate). Let’s have a dance; it might cheer us up. Have a great weekend.