Speed 20 October 2017

Last Monday the skies about the UK waxed red and wobbly as if a celestial Instagram filter had been applied in attempt to impress a dwindling number of followers with its artistry and drama. But this wasn’t “Gingham”, “Juno” or “X-Pro II” this was “Portuguese Wildfire” and “Saharan Dust” (coincidentally both nicknames TFSR had at school) and they heralded a week not filled with people in your news feed looking slightly more attractive than you remember them but instead one that was backdrop to a week of nagging unpleasantness. Nothing major. But enough.

For the press, the red skies were too good an opportunity to resist and Tuesday’s front pages were filled with photos of red-tinged landmarks and words like “apocalypse”, “Hell Storm” and, rather more prosaically in The Mail, “The Day Britain Turned Orange”. The media as a whole seemed to duck any obvious gags about the sky’s elaborate piece of satire based on the hue of a certain Presidential skin and that’s good because it would have been obvious and not at all funny.

Another notable feature of the week just ending is that there wasn’t a single mention of the word “Brexit” in any UK media outlet aside from a small photo story in Kennel and Cattery Management magazine whose “Cats of the Month” were a cute pair of British Blues called Farage and Brexit. None of which is of course remotely true but wouldn’t it have been nice if it was?

No, the reality is that Brexit continued to hold its place at the top of the news agenda as the week ticked down to a private dinner TM the PM was scheduled to share with EU leaders on Thursday night. This was ahead of the EU summit on Friday at which it will be decided if sufficient progress has been made with the Brexit negotiations to begin talking about potential trade deals. Back in the UK, David Davis made a statement to the Commons suggesting that a “no deal” Brexit would actually work out just fine; a notion immediately contradicted by his colleague Amber Rudd who said that such an outcome would be “unthinkable”.

On Thursday the Telegraph used its front page to report that many Brexit-lovers are urging TM to “walk out if the EU won’t talk trade” and on Friday, The Times’ front page suggested that “Davis is drawing up plans for no deal on Brexit talks”. Also on Friday, The Sun published an opinion piece suggesting all the copious reasons why trading under WTO rules following a failed Brexit deal would be a feast of pleasure, sunshine and rainbows.

The toxic sludge of the Weinstein allegations continued to trail across the media this week with more women coming forward to bear witness to his abuses. The list seems as long as the man was powerful and he clearly wasn’t the only Hollywood male to be acting in this way; on Wednesday many papers reported the resignation of Amazon Studios boss Roy Price following allegations of sexual harassment and on Friday, in an example of the story’s dark longevity, the UK tabloids featured Penny Lancaster who’s spoken out about the abuse she endured as a young model.

The hashtag #MeToo went viral across social media, used by women (and some men it must be said) to share their own experiences of sexual harassment, not by rich, white men in the entertainment industry but by people they’ve encountered in everyday life. It’s not an edifying picture and one that speaks of a dark acceptance of the unacceptable that’s as old as the hills. At least now the silence is broken.

While on the subject of darkness, let’s tick off a few other stories from the week’s list and be warned, there’s not many laughs to be found here. So then, crime is increasing and quickly. In the past year, crime in England and Wales has risen by 13% with even bigger rises in the rates of knife attacks, sexual offences and violence. Excluding the victims of terrorist attacks, there’s been 664 murders in the last year. And if we’re not being killed by our countrymen, we’re being killed by our poor air quality with American scientists suggesting that more than 8% of all deaths in the UK each year (that’s around 50,000 fatalities) are a direct result of pollution; that’s a higher proportion than in many other European countries including Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland. And if that wasn’t enough of a drag on your Friday afternoon then the Head of MI5 Andrew Parker gave an interview to the BBC in which he reassured the nation by saying that there was “more terrorist activity coming at us, more quickly” and that more attacks were “inevitable”.

Blimmin’ heck. That’s bleak.

The Sun has spent the week holding the police to account / needlessly hectoring policemen and women doing an excellent job (delete according to your political views). On Monday, its front page was plastered with the (very decent pun) “Crime Waive” alongside a story that police are failing to investigate 1000s of crimes due to lack of resource; on Tuesday it had a photo of officers playing on the dodgems at a fairground – headline: “It’s a fair cop” (rubbish) and it ended the week with yet another front page story about the police, this time reporting that certain officers had been “slammed” over a “gimmick” to highlight slavery via the application of nail varnish. Headline: “The Boys in Blue Nail Varnish” (sigh). Inside, The Sun quoted “someone on Facebook” who asked “if the police had anything better to do . . . (pause for effect)  . . . like catching crooks”.

Meanwhile in the world The Daily Star on Wednesday: “50K boobs and bum got me a footie ace”, prompting even the Star to suggest that “it’s a sad world”.

Thank goodness then for Royal babies, or at least the royal baby due to be born, it was announced this week, in April. The Mail and The Express are both MASSIVELY exited but the Marxist, loony-leftist BBC is a little less rapturous. Newsreading man Simon McCoy clearly should be hanged.

So there we go. That’s the world as it stands this Friday afternoon as the UK waits nervously for Storm Brian (he’s not a hurricane; he’s a very naughty boy – younger readers may want to Google the allusion) barrels towards us like an excitable puppy but one carrying sledgehammer and with a barrel of gunpowder around his neck: a St Bernard at the end of the world.

And what do storms do? Yes, that’s right headline writers everywhere, they “batter”.

Hold on tight everyone.

Here’s the band Daughter and a song from their stunning soundtrack album “Music from Before the Storm” which is ace and apposite. Two of our favourite things. Oh yes, there’ll be no Speed Read next week due to an outbreak of holiday. See you in a fortnight.