Speed 13 October 2017

This week’s The Friday Speed Read kicks off in the ‘exciting’ world of tennis metaphors, perhaps appropriately given the weather forecast for the imminent weekend that’s predicting we’ll all be shedding jumpers and jackets faster than British players (other than Andy Murray) exiting the main draw at Wimbledon.

But it’s not June. It’s October. And this isn’t Wimbledon; this is the Brexit Open. And it’s tense.

David Davis, representing the UK is dressed in green-flash Dunlop trainers; an ill-advisedly tight Fred Perry collared t-shirt and is wielding a wooden racket because things were clearly much better back in the heady days of the past when things were not as good. His opponent, Europe’s Michel Barnier, is channelling Henri Leconte: all swarthy good-looks and that French knack for innate style that’s as alien to most Brits as speaking another language. Damn, l’homme can even make a cardigan look like a sensible fashion choice.

So what’s the score in this crucial opening round encounter?

Well, it’s still 0-0 in the first set because each player claims the other has the ball. “The ball’s in your court”, said the Express and the Times on Monday, quoting the speech that TM the PM was to give that day in Parliament. The same line was given in Tuesday’s coverage, this time alongside TM’s hint that there may have to be a plan in place just in case the ball can’t be found during the rapidly decreasing time that remains for the Brexit talks.  When asked for his thoughts on the matter Michel “Henri” Barnier angrily spat back that Brexit “is not a game”.

No Michel, you’re right. It’s a piece of science-fiction.

And so, by the end of the week, Monsieur Barnier had changed from his tennis gear into a Darth Vader costume, crushed David Davis’ tiny neck with the power of the Dark Side, declaring that he found his lack of progress in the Brexit talks disturbing. (And this was all in the week in which the final trailer for the new Star Wars film was released – and was ace).

The other main story of the week was of course the multiple allegations of sexual assault, including rape, made against former Hollywood “God” Harvey Weinstein, whose week began with being sacked by his own company and then went downhill from there. By Wednesday, the number of women who had gone public with their own allegations about Weinstein’s behaviour was continuing to climb steadily and The Telegraph, Metro, Sun and Mirror all led with damning testimony from, amongst many others, Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie. The story continued to dominate on Thursday and into Friday

The fact that a rich, powerful white man was using his considerable clout in this most narcissistic of industries to attempt to sleep with the long string of beautiful women over which he held sway is both contemptuous and unsurprising. However, the fact that it had been going on for so long, seemingly with the full-knowledge of most of Hollywood, speaks of a male “omerta” that’s surely going to make many within the industry squirm with culpability. It may have been an open goal but The Daily Mail’s Thursday front page that damned “the cowardice of the liberal establishment” was making a necessary and astute point.

In other news, 30 years after the salmonella controversy, egg boffins from the Food Standards Agency have declared that runny, soft-boiled and raw eggs are a party to which everyone’s now safe to attend including pregnant women and children; soap-pedlars Dove removed an advert from the internet on account of it being blatant piece of racism and “pound coin chaos” is upon us, according to the Telegraph, as shops plan to ignore Sunday’s obsolescence date for the old coins.

Fans of things raining down on us from heaven were disappointed to hear that an asteroid “the size of a house” will narrowly miss the Earth in the coming days but were cheered up by Friday’s revelation that Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will crash through our atmosphere later this year. Jonathan McDowell, a renowned astrophysicist from Harvard University and a space industry ‘enthusiast’ reassured humanity and wielded his expensively-educated prowess with this piece of stunning analysis: “Not knowing when it’s going to come down translates as not knowing where it’s going to come down”.

Thank goodness for that.

Other front-page fodder included the surging popularity of new blood sport: Philip-Hammond-Baiting. Front of the queue to play was the right-wing press and their perception of the Chancellor as a Brexit doom-monger. Thursday’s Mail toted the phrase “daggers drawn” and reported that “PM slaps treacherous Chancellor down” over his sad eyes, long bouts of sighing and refusal to set money aside to keep the wolf from the door should we leave the EU without a deal in place. By Friday, Mr Hammond had become “Eeyore Phil” as the Mail gleefully quoted 80s Chancellor-and-celebrity-Nigel Nigel Lawson who has branded the dour current tennant of Number 11 Downing Street a “saboteur”.

Oh yes, you remember that good news about the weekend’s weather? Well, enjoy every globally-warmed second of it because all the papers on Friday are predicting that a 70mph hurricane will “batter” the UK on Monday. (Why does a hurricane always “batter”? It never “caresses” or “prods” or “jiggles” does it? Just a thought).

And finally, a fisherman in Bournemouth had to be resuscitated by paramedics this week, after his wacky “look at me pretending to eat this fish I’ve just caught” celebration went awry when he accidentally dropped the Dover Sole down his gaping gullet. Thankfully he survived which means we can find the whole thing funny and make puns like “he’s a lucky sole” and “sole survivor” and “body and sole” and “caught and soled”  . . . . . . .

Let’s end with a Happy Birthday to you Paul Simon, you blimmin’ genius you: