Speed 15 September 2017

Just when you thought it was safe to put thoughts of the end of the world on hold and spend the week laughing at a mini loaf of bread on Bake Off that looked very unlike a snail and very like an old man’s willy, then North Korean heartthrob Kim Jung Un decides to fling another ballistic missile over Japan and into the Pacific Ocean. Cue widespread international opprobrium with the US urging Russia and China to pull their fingers out and reign in the squat dictator before things get catastrophically out of hand.

There was a second coincidence of everyone’s favourite baking show (I think we’re allowed to say this now, aren’t we? #TeamPrue) and squat dictators this week when Monday’s tabloids printed photographs of Paul ‘Decent Texture’ Hollywood spectacularly breaking the NUMBER ONE rule for celebrities at fancy dress parties: Don’t dress up as Hitler. Sadly for PH, the fact that the photograph was taken in 2003 when baking fame was long way from rising in the proving drawer didn’t stop many papers giving him a right old kneading. With some justification.

The aftermath of Hurricane Irma was widely reported, mostly with a sense of relief that despite extensive flooding, destruction of homes and several deaths, it could, in the US at least, have been a lot, lot worse. Not that this was much comfort for the inhabitants of the islands of north Caribbean, many of which were essentially levelled by this record-breaking horror of a storm.

Concerns about the nation’s health bookended the media week with the Times on Monday reporting that there are “urgent and deepening health concerns” about the UK population and that we are “the sick man of Europe”. Likewise, on Friday morning, all of the newspapers quoted the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE, both acronym and 90s Fast Show reference) recommendations that everyone over 40 has a diabetes test and that the state pays for cooking and weight-loss classes for those who are obese.

Anyone wanting to fight the flab by turning vegetarian will have to avoid the new ten pound note that the Bank of England issued this week. Featuring Jane Austen, the note is allegedly unforgeable, almost indestructible and made from rendered animal lungs, kidneys and stomachs. Yum!

In a third piece of grease-related news, a giant “fatberg” composed of “congealed fat, wet wipes, nappies and condoms” has blocked an East London sewer. It is 130 tonnes in weight, the size of 11 London busses (which, along with football pitches, remains the media’s favourite unit of measurement) and is being battled by a team of very brave souls with heavy machinery. In a final twist to the story, The Museum of London has requested a sizeable chunk of this grotesque mountain so it can be put on display to public in a move that brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “fat shaming”.

A quick thumb through the rest of the week’s news sheaf reveals that haloumi sales have soared by 24% and is now part of Waitrose’s Essential range;  the A303 is going to be put in a tunnel as it passes Stonehenge; cartoon Tory Jacob Rees-Mogg called the use of foodbanks “uplifting” and Apple launched its most expensive phone ever – the iPhone X, which will cost just shy of a grand and features facial recognition software that failed during the launch event, presumably dazzled into confusion by the shine bouncing off the demonstrator’s Californian teeth.

Elsewhere, a BBC survey revealed that East Dunbartonshire is the best place in the UK to be a woman and young people now think that 26 is the age when you finally become an adult. One of the most notable signifiers of passing across the grown-up threshold is, apparently, the ability to successfully look after a pot plant. Yes really.

It’s been another rocky week for TM the PM who lost the support of her DUP “allies” in the Commons over both the public sector pay cap and raising tuition fees and, to make things worse, her ex-colleague George Osborne said that he wanted TM “chopped up and put in a freezer”. Such nonsense either makes him either a crazed killer or a terrible comedian. Either way, it’s not a good look.

Widespread coverage was given to the opening of the Grenville Tower enquiry with The Mirror suggesting that the choice of venue, with its thick carpets and dangling chandeliers, was misjudged, inappropriate and spoke of the distance between the powerful and the poor, at least 80 of whom were killed in that unspeakable fire.

Finally, just as this week’s Friday Speed Read is being written, the television in the office is showing scenes from an explosion on a District Line train near Parsons Green station. The details are sketchy but counter terrorism police are leading the investigation and there are reports of 19 injuries but no fatalities at the present moment. It seems that the device didn’t explode as intended; it could have been much worse.

And so here we go again.

In happier news, last night saw Sampha win the Mercury Music Prize for his album Process. It’s a beautiful record, very much worth buying / streaming, not least for moments like this:

Have a good weekend.