Article | Uncategorised
Best in Show
Every week The Friday Speed Read plays eighteen holes of news golf with a stock broker from Dorking; dressed in absurd trousers, it clubs the biggest stories of the week towards the green of analysis while trying avoiding the rough of obfuscation. It’s often below par.
In the week in which science announced that you can drink up to 25 cups of coffee a day with nary an ill-effect (study conducted by Queen Mary University not, as you might imagine, by The Nescafe School of Coffee and Related Grinding Studies) then be reassured that this week’s edition of The Friday Speed Read is making hay in the full sunshine of these new coffee freedoms and has already imbibed five chipped-mug-full of steaming black Joe in the composition of this opening paragraph alone. It’s going to be an interesting ride.
However, before we descend completely into the coffee-fug let’s talk about something that actually matters. 75 years ago this week, thousands-upon-thousands of almost-adult soldiers were shipped across the English channel in, literally, sickening conditions and sent running up the Normandy beaches towards multiple batteries of Nazi machine guns that killed over four thousand of them in that first day alone. Without wanting to turn this column into a GCSE history essay, the commemorations that have dominated the past three days have been a timely reminder of the wordless horror of D-Day; the incredible bravery and sacrifice of the young men taking part and, of course, the thought that without victory in Normandy who knows how long Hitler would have remained in power? For all our complaints about the bizarre times in which we live, it’s clearly a picnic compared to what life would have been like under the Third Reich.
The quiet dignity of these very old men, all of them in their 90s, who stood in tribute to their dead comrades featured on all of the front pages on Thursday and Friday of this week. “A debt we can never repay” said the Mail; “A salute to sacrifice”, said the Times, with every paper striking a similar note. The Sun, it must be said, still can’t self-regulate when it comes to punning and accompanied a large photograph of the Queen making her excellent speech during the commemorations in Portsmouth with the headline “Maj generation”. And yes, it was a reference to the Queen’s comment that she is the same age as the D-Day heroes but it was also rubbish and felt like a misstep.
There were very few dissenting voices, none really, although Simon Jenkins of the Guardian did make a point about the UK’s “addiction to the Second World War” and as Friday’s papers arrived once again stuffed with “special souvenir supplements”, all of them well-intentioned and respectful but numbering pages in the dozen, you might perhaps think that Jenkins has a point. Or you might not. Both of which are perfectly respectable opinions and we of course have the freedom to express either of them; a freedom due, at least in some part, to those very young, very scared and unfathomably brave men in the hell of a Normandy beach 75 years ago.
There is no subtle segue from “quiet dignity” to “Donald Trump” so let’s just take a moment to enjoy the rhetorical power of a well-placed juxtaposition . . . . . . feels good, doesn’t it? Anyway, this was the week when President Trump brought his family and a new haircut for a lavish holiday in the UK and goodness me did he (and the UK press) have a really, really good time. Do any of you have a friend or a relative who seems to exist in a perpetual state of chaos? You know the type: you brace yourselves for their arrival and then sit teeth-gritted through their bad jokes, ham-fisted breaking of your best glassware and “just telling it like it is” remarks about immigration, counting down the minutes to their departure. Well, aside from the fact that Uncle Fred’s visits don’t cost £40 million, this is EXACTLY how (some) people viewed the Trump family tour of our capital’s largest dining rooms: something to be endured and then, once you’ve given the place a damn good hoovering, forgotten about as quickly as possible.
Not that Donald gave two hoots what we thought. Even before landing, he’d kicked off the visit with some typically enthusiastic Twitter-battering of London mayor Sadiq Khan “he is a stone cold loser” and then, with the smile never leaving has face, got on with the business of being Donald Trump: fist- bumping the Queen (except he didn’t, it just looked like it in the photo – not that this stopped the Sun’s headline machine: “Wassup!”); touching the Queen’s back; saying that he wasn’t going to get involved in UK politics before opining that Boris would make a great PM; ignoring Jeremy Corbyn (which to be fair is relatively easy to do); saying that the NHS would be on the table in future trade talks before then having to be told what the NHS was; flying to Ireland and telling the Taoiseach that a harder border with Northern Ireland would “work out very well” . . . .and on and on and on.
The right wing press love him of course, particularly the Express who could barely conceal its joy when Trump described the UK’s union with Europe as “shackles” to be thrown off; the left wing press are less enamoured: “Butt out, Mr President” – The Mirror, but none deny that this was a state visit that shared the same adjectives that describe the Trump presidency: unique; contradictory; wildly unpredictable and impossible to ignore.
A quick shake of the “other news this week” maraca finds Waitrose trialling packaging-free products in a store in Oxford (and getting a lot of headlines as a result); the Tory leadership contest “hotting up” with Boris Johnson still the red hot favourite which is something we just can’t cope with right now let’s move on; two pieces of bad news for the UK economy arrived with recent retail sales figures announced as the worst since the 90s and Ford is going to close an engine factory in Bridgend; and finally, the Brexit party didn’t win the Bi-election in Peterborough although it did come very close to doing so. Good news? Bad news? We just don’t know anymore.
And finally, the Women’s World Cup begins in Paris today. This column has been known to dabble occasionally in a bit of sideline football punditry and so it would be remiss of us not to wish the England team all the best for the tournament. We’d also like very much to talk up the chances of the women of Cameroon who we’ve drawn in Ben’s office sweepstake; if you’re reading this Cameroon (and we know that TFSR is a must-read in the bars of Yaoundé) just remember to hold and give but do it at the right time, you can be slow and fast but you must get to the line . . . .
Sorry. That was poor. Time for coffee number seven.
To play out, New Orleans legend Dr. John died overnight. If you don’t know his varied and an influential music then this is a decent place to start:
See you next week.