It’s the First of December! A day of excitement, nuggets of tasteless chocolate and every third person you talk to rhetorically asking the same question: “Gosh, where did the year disappear?” they ponder, half to themselves, half to you, as if looking for any other answer than “well that’s time for you mate; it just goes.”
However, if we can ignore the inconvenient truth of our own mortality and the fact that Advent doesn’t actually begin until Sunday, shall we crack on and open the first window on The Friday Speed Read Advent Calendar? The one we’ve got propped up on the mantelpiece alongside that cheque Aunt Sal gave us for our birthday (I mean, I know you’re nearly 80 Sal, but come on, who still writes cheques?) and we meant to pay in four months ago?
Here we go! So what’s behind the little cardboard door that we’ve just half-ripped off in our excitement? Um, is that a shepherd? Is it the President of the United States of America merrily endorsing the hateful bile of far-right supremacists? No! Thank goodness for that. It’s a picture of three diamonds nestling like well, like diamonds really, on a priceless engagement ring.
This then was the week that a large proportion of the British press had been waiting for like impatient children ticking off the days as time limped painfully slowly towards the best Christmas ever. Except this was better than Christmas; this was love and there ain’t no love more likely to provoke an outpouring of souvenir supplements than Royal Love.
When the engagement of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle was announced on Monday (via Twitter – a very long way from a discreet notice in the Times) there was not only an outpouring of joy in the offices here at Speed Towers but all newspapers immediately cancelled all scheduled leave, locked their journalists into a special Royal Wedding Cupboard and flogged them in an attempt to squeeze out more pages of insightful coverage and analysis than their rivals.
Here’s the shakedown on how each fared when they hit the newsstands on Tuesday morning:
The Daily Star: “Let’s all have it orf” (classy) / 6 pages of coverage / 0 souvenir pull-outs
The Daily Express: “The Look of Love” / 8 pages of coverage/ 0 souvenir pull-outs
Metro: “One’s one” (worst headline prize) / 10 pages of coverage / 0 souvenir pull-outs
Daily Mirror: “She just tripped and fell into my life” / 10 pages / 1 souvenir pull-out
Telegraph: “The corgis took to her straight away” (a very odd criterion for choosing a life partner) / 16 pages / 1 souvenir pull-out
The Sun: “She’s the one” / 25 pages / 0 pull-outs but a FREE POSTER
The Daily Mail: “The stars were aligned . . . this beautiful woman just fell into my life” / lost count of the pages / 24-page GLOSSY souvenir MAGAZINE
So well done The Daily Mail!
A special mention to the Times (“Moderates forced out of hard left in Labour purge”) and The Guardian (“MPs fury over Brexit impact reports”) for refusing to join in with the fun.
So then, our best wishes to the happy couple. Harry has always struck us as a decent chap and Meghan seems very pleasant; we only hope that she realises that her life from now on will be entirely and genuinely insane. We wish them luck.
The other story to dominate the week’s news agenda was far less joyful; in fact, it was as far away from joy as it’s possible to get. This was the week in which President Donald J Trump retweeted three anti-Islamic videos posted by Britain First, a group of self-confessed racists, the name of which was shouted by the murderer of MP Jo Cox last year.
These tweets were seen by Trump’s 44 million followers and prompted opprobrium from the around the world, including from Theresa May who said that Trump had been wrong to retweet the videos. Trump responded by telling TM that she should concentrate on “the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism” in the UK rather than criticising him. Except he didn’t. He actually tweeted Theresa Scrivener from Bognor (@theresamay) who later told interviewers that if she had wanted to be famous she’d have “gone on X Factor”.
The real TM the PM said that, despite Trump’s apparent endorsement of extremist views, the invitation for a state visit to the UK is very much still in place. However, by Friday morning this assertion was looking shakier with the Mirror’s front page simply saying “Not Wanted” and the Telegraph’s website carrying an exclusive reporting the visit has been dropped.
Elsewhere, last week’s pledge by the government to increase the amount it’s willing to pay the EU after Brexit seems to have given fresh impetus to negotiations and made lots of “hard Brexiteers” very cross; a former Bosnian Croat military commander committed suicide by drinking poison in a courtroom after losing an appeal against his 20-year prison term; serial killer Levi Bellfield made many front pages after allegedly confessing in prison to two more murders and “I’m a Celebrity” continues on ITV and continues to generate headlines like the Star’s “I’m a Celeb . . . get me a new pair of boobs” which scores a ZERO on the pun-ometer for not even trying.
The more astute amongst TFSR’s readership will have noticed that it’s been cold of late. The papers have noticed too and have liberally scattered their pages this week with pictures of people and places looking cold alongside headlines such as “Big Freeze to last a month” (Express, Monday) and the more colourful “Blitzed by Thunder Snow and Lightning” (The Star, Friday). The cold “snap” is widely expected to last until it gets warmer.
And finally, joyfully, a front-page headline to really get behind from Friday’s Express: “Cheese fights heart disease”. Yep, break out the Camembert, the Comte and the Cambazola (but do it Carephilly); stock up on Cornish Yarg and Dorset Blue Vinney, this Christmas season we’re going to fight our way back to top cardiac health by the rapid and substantial consumption of the coagulate of the milk protein casein. Bring on the (cream) crackers!
And here’s the second-best thing about cheese aside from eating it:
See you next week.