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Speed Read: Painting wine-box busses with Romanos the Melodist

Every week, The Friday Speed Read holds a small festival in a westcountry field to which it invites the biggest news stories to play an hour’s set in front of crowd high on Nitrous Oxide; they are then forced against their will to give an interview to Fearne Cotton. 

We’re going to come straight to the point: the Friday Speed Read “hot” desk is not a happy place this morning. And yes, you can point a twitchy finger to the sky all you and shout “Look! Just look! You’ve been bleating on about endless rain in a series of quips of diminishing quality for weeks and now that the sun’s finally out, and what?  You’re going to take the contrary view to the rest of the country and linger in the trench of misery that’s become your default position?”

In a word: yes. Or in more than a word: yes we are for the following reasons. We don’t have a ticket for Glastonbury and right now our chakra could do with a bit of dance to some low-fi indie (plus cider) in front of one of the more obscure stages; our nose is so riddled with hay-feverish slime that Hugh Fernley-Whittingtall is making an angry documentary about the unsustainable amount of tissue waste we’re creating AND Boris Johnson is going to be our next Prime Minister. Because he is, isn’t he?

We do try to retain at least the pretence of impartiality when wrangling this column into some sort of shape on a Friday morning but today, after the week just gone, we’re not up to the herculean reserves of effort required. So, if you’re a Boris Johnson lover (or one of Boris Johnson’s lovers) you might want to find another satirical column to half-read on a Friday afternoon because we’re feeling punchy (and a bit drowsy).

Last weekend, the British press  . . . actually, you know all this.

Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds had a barney, with raised voices and complaints about red wine stains on the sofa. The police were called; and then the Guardian was called and then the rest of the UK press high-fived each other and got to work on a series of front-page splashes. “Boris and Carrie 4 rows in 6 weeks” – The Sun, among many others that are too wearisome to list.

Mr Johnson, finally removing the gaffe-preventing gaffer-tape (gaffe-tape?) that his minders had placed across his mouth at the beginning of his campaign, was asked multiple times about the incident with the sofa and the police. He responded to the questions with a well-rehearsed reply that he doesn’t talk about his personal life because, quite reasonably perhaps, it has nothing to do with politics. And then, Boris Johnson’s team made completely sure that we understood that his private life has nothing to do with politics by releasing a photograph of Johnson and Symonds holding hands across a picnic bench somewhere in a field in England; an image so staged it made the three-hundred-year rise of The Roman Empire look fleet-footed and spontaneous.

The next day, even The Telegraph (one of Mr Johnson’s employers) was starting to get jumpy: “Boris tries to keep the show on the road”; but his new BFFs The Daily Express (now clearly over its brief period of mourning after the demise of Theresa May) was urging us all to “stop the war on Boris”.  Mr Johnson gave an interview to LBC in which he couldn’t explain where the photo had come from and neither why, given that its purpose was to show that his relationship with Symonds was all love-hearts and Catullus right now, was it clearly several months old (his hair was too long if you’re interested – but you’re likely not).

And THEN . . . . this happened.

And you thought that the Handmaid’s Tale was a painful watch.

Back in the real (in the loosest sense) world, The Sun got out its pun-gun and fired off three front page efforts in quick succession:

Wednesday: “They Think it’s all Owed Her” – Very rich footballer Mahrez (£250,000 a week) ordered to pay the nanny of his children (£12 an hour) properly.

Thursday: “Chore Nicked” – wife briefly imprisoned for nagging her husband to do the hoovering.

Friday: “Slappy Ending” – possible solution for baldness emerges – “millions of slapheads could be cured”.

And while none of these are going to trouble to Top 10 of the Sun’s greatest hits, it’s reassuring to know that in these uncertain times the appeal of a story bent to fit a half-decent bit of wordplay seems as evergreen as ever.

Strapping on the “other news this week” guitar, finds us strumming the following chords: widespread grumbling about the cost to the taxpayer of doing up Harry and Meg’s “cottage” in Windsor (£2.4M if you’re asking); designer of the iPod, iPhone and iMac Sir Jonny Ive is leaving Apple after thirty years to start a small alpaca farm near Dorking (not true); England’s women have reached the semi-final of the world cup after a fantastic win against Norway; Chuckles Putin has given an interview to the FT in which he says liberalism is obsolete and what people really really want is strong, nationalist leaders (like Chuckles Putin) and don’t want immigrants because immigrants “kill, plunder and rape”. Nice guy.

Let’s end with some good news. Once again, scientists have proved themselves the real heroes of the modern word with the widely-reported news that in the eight years since the introduction of HPV vaccination, cervical cancer rates have plummeted. There’s good reason to believe that the disease may be eradicated in the coming years. Well done science.

So, the Glastonbury Festival is now in full-swing, with a weekend ahead of music, cider and crystals beneath the blazing Somerset sun. However, there’s been a bit of grumbling about the shifting demographics of the average Glasto reveller and the line-up of bands booked to entertain them. Stormzy aside, acts such as The Killers, The Cure and Kylie Minogue, are hardly in the first flush of youth. But a quick squizz at the schedule does reveal many highlights for a Gen Z audience:

Pyramid Stage, 9.00pm Friday – Johan Sebastian Bach (greatest hits set)

The Other Stage, 5.00 Saturday – Julius Caesar vs Boudicca rap battle

John Peel Stage, 12.00 Sunday –  Romanos the Melodist (C6th Byzantine composer but, joking apart, would be an excellent name for a rapper).

To finish?

Closing out Glasto this year - The Cure. Click to play

Click to play The Cure

Well, The Cure may be music for old people but, what music.

That’s cheered us right up.

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