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Speed Read: Drugs in petanque, old royal in crash, Brexit in Haiku.

Every Friday, The Speed Read steps out from the shadows in which its been skulking all week and presents its review of the week’s biggest news stories in a series of short plays performed by a team of lauded actors one of whom once fell off a roof in the BBC’s Casualty. 

If there’s a single morsel of comfort for which TM the PM can drop to her knees and give heartfelt thanks this week, it’s that HRH The Duke of Edinburgh is a terrible driver. She may have suffered the largest defeat in the history of modern politics (more of which, inevitably, anon); she may be presiding over a party, a parliament and a country that is riven not just by mutual distrust but pure, rocket-fuelled mutual loathing; she may have brought out the worst in all of us BUT, hallelujah, praise be to the wheaty gods, the 97 year old Netflix star rolled his Range Rover on a country road on Thursday lunchtime and knocked Brexit off the front pages.

“How did he walk away?” asks the Mail on Friday morning; “Philip cheats death” says The Mirror; “My legs! My legs” quotes The Sun’s front page, apparently certain of the Prince’s words despite not being there at the time. And the Telegraph? “May faces revolt against no deal”. (Damn, says TM the PM, damn, damn, damn).

Anyway, we’re glad he’s alright. Maybe it’s not the best idea for a near-centenarian to be pelting around the back lanes in a massive car but perhaps, much like his Range Rover-owning subjects that drive their urban tanks at high velolcity along the twisted roads near Speed Towers, he just doesn’t care.

Ouch. Local traffic satire.

Let’s NOT talk about Brexit for a bit longer shall we? In fact, if we all tried really hard we could probably not talk about Brexit for the next 500 words or so (if only it was 500 days). That’s a good idea. We’re giving you a guarantee. As of NOW, 280 words into this week’s column, we solemnly attest that there’ll no mention of the B word until the word count reaches 800.

We’re certain that one story this week won’t have flown under your news radar and that’s the drugs scandal that has ROCKED the international petanque scene. And you thought petanque was just a game played by pastis-sipping, Gitanes-pulling Frenchman, sending sliver balls arcing into the orange skies of endless warm summer evenings. Well you’re wrong.  Petanque is played by ATHLETES. The only reason Usain Bolt never lanced a silver ball into a French gravel pit is because he just wasn’t sporty enough and had to fall back on the comparatively easy ride that is running really quickly in a straight line. Anyway, we digress. As you well know, international petanaque has been shaken to its core by the loose tongue of Dutch champion Edward Vinke (46) and his teammate Kees Koogje (27) who’ve slammed the Belgian team for being nothing more than a bunch of junkies. Koogje picks up the story:

“We were far ahead”, he said (in Dutch), “we were far ahead and playing flawlessly. Then they (the pesky Belgians) went to the bathroom for 10 minutes and came back with HUGE EYES. Everything then went well for them”. The buggers.

Let’s just be grateful that the Russians are yet to arrive on the petanque scene.

Elsewhere this week, Gillette released a video that reworked its famous “Best a man can get” slogan into “The best men can be” alongside a #MeToo-inspired collage of men in plaid shirts realising that feeling up women, laughing at sexism and normalising bullying is NOT COOL ANYMORE and then stepping away from their barbecues and behaving better (and, most importantly of all, BUYING MORE RAZORS). It caused a bit of a stink to say the least, with that professional keeper of real manliness Piers Morgan calling the video “virtue-signalling PC guff” and a deluge of pictures being posted online by real men breaking, crushing and flushing away (unsuccessfully) their Gillette razors in protest. Whether all of this real manly outrage is because real men are furiously fighting for their right to slap a woman’s bottom or because they won’t take prescriptive moralising from someone flogging them a product is a moot question (the truth is somewhere in between we suspect): the video has had 20 million views in less than a week. Job done.

Still in the online world, this week a picture of an egg became the most-liked image on Instagram since the early 1700s, beating the previous record held by the fictional Kylie Jenner. Was this a moment of post-modern genius? The point where the rug was pulled from the glazy-eyed culture of celebrity worship, its absurdity exposed for all to see? Nope. It was just a picture of an egg. And in this lies its profound genius.

In America, the Trump vs Congress standoff continued meaning that the government shutdown heads into another weekend; a new guide to healthy portion size was launched recommending, amongst other things, that a chicken portion should be half the size of your . . . . 800 WORDS HAVE BEEN REACHED WE MUST TALK ABOUT BREXIT . . .

There’s a bit of a “boy who cried wolf” situation going on here. Every week the media bandies around words like “unprecedented”, “extraordinary” and “unique” to the extent that we’ve started to shrug and say “so what?”. But for a sitting Prime Minister to lose a parliamentary vote by over 200 and then not to resign immediately is indeed unprecedented, extraordinary and unique. The reaction in the papers was to be expected: “Historic defeat” (The Times), “No deal. No hope. No clue.” (The Mirror), “A complete humiliation” (Telegraph) and The Sun? Well the Sun’s crack photoshop team rose to the challenge with TM the PM’s face appended to the body of the ill-fated dodo; it’s headline? “Brextinct”.

Anyway, you know the rest. TM stood up, shook herself down, suggested that she’d like to talk to other members of parliament with different views on Brexit (two years too late) invited Corbyn along too but he refuses saying he won’t talk until “no deal” is taken off the metaphorical table which TM refuses to do. A new vote has been scheduled for an amended deal on Monday but how it’s going to differ from the one immolated by MPs on Wednesday is a question far beyond the abilities of this column. Instead, we’re just rooting around for a new way of saying the same old thing. This week a Brexit haiku:

May’s deal is shot down,
Now she preaches compromise,
While giving none.

There you go. You don’t get Japanese poetic forms in other mildly satirical news roundups. And probably for good reason.

And to make a final jarring genre-leap here’s Octavian, announced last week as the winner of the BBC’s Sound of 2019. He’s ace.

See you next week (with all the usual caveats).

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