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Speed Read: Welcome to Meghanuary

Every week The Friday Speed Read plans to start each day by pulling on its trainers and running after the biggest news stories but quickly decides that running is a bit too ambitious and is going to walk instead. Further downward revisions should be expected. 

After you’ve reached a certain age, then you greet the start of every new year not just with the usual slew of good intentions and unkeepable promises to yourself but also a merry quip or two about the fact that we should “all be driving flying cars and wearing inflatable space trousers by now”. It gets quite tedious really. And this is coming from someone who began January 1st 2020 with a Google search for “best offers on inflatable space trousers.”

Anyway, 2020 may well sound like the year when we finally get overrun by killer sex robots (we can think of worse ways to go) but this is where we are and as the Friday Speed Read wakes from its festive cheese coma we’re determined to shake off some of the dolour of 2019 and try a bit of, you know, optimism . . . . . *checks notes in news notebook* . . .*looks worried* . . *drinks triple espresso* . . . *goes for an endorphin raising walk around the office with hands shaking from the espresso* . . . thank goodness then for Harry and Meghan. Welcome, dear readers, to Meghanuary.

What’s the easiest job in the world right now? Tory party whip? Manager of Liverpool Football Club? Nope. It’s scriptwriter for Series 6 of The Crown. After the ‘gift’ of the Prince Andrew storyline last year, 2020 has already served up the kind of narrative gift that will have had the screenwriting department deep in Netflix’s underground content lair slapping their Macbook Pros with moist-eyed joy. She’s American. He’s not American but, even better, is a free-spirited member of an otherwise uptight heredity monarchy. They have a cute baby and THEY DIDN’T EVEN TELL THE QUEEN! (Daily Mirror, Thursday).

What didn’t they tell the Queen? (we know you know the answer to this but we’re building up to something here so bear with us) Only that they’re blimmin’ well quitting “the Firm”, running off to Canada and rejecting public money to live only on their wits and a multi-million pound inheritance. Hot off the press, here’s a scene from the aforementioned series 6 in which Meghan is played by Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Harry is also played by Phoebe Waller-Bridge.


Prince Harry is sitting in his pants on the sofa casually flicking through television channels and eating Twiglets. He has a small Marmite moustache smeared over his top lip.

MEG:                   (from the kitchen) Harry?

Harry pops another Twiglet into and crunches down without responding.

MEG:                   (still from kitchen) Harry!

Harry sighs.

HARRY:               WHAT?

Meghan enters the small sitting room. She looks immaculate.

MEG:                   Have you put the ‘Gram out?

HARRY:               The what?

MEG:                   The Instagram post? Have you put it out?

HARRY:               Yeah.

MEG:                   You haven’t! I know you haven’t!

HARRY:               Why you askin’ then?

MEG:                   You said you would Harry. You bleddy said you would.

Harry looks at his wife and then gestures towards the television.

HARRY:               Homes Under the Hammer.

MEG:                   Afterwards then?

HARRY:               Afterwards. I love you Rachel Zane from Suits.

MEG:                   I love you too my Ginger Prince.

And so on.

To be sort of serious for a moment, whatever your opinions of the Royals, whatever your opinions of Harry and Meghan, this is a story that’s been seized upon with typical (and predictable) fervour by the British press (and in doing so, going a long way to proving Harry’s essential point about intrusion). Did we really need 17 pages of coverage in the Daily Mail? Did we need the Sun’s Thursday front page? “Megxit” (answer: yes, it was funny). How do you explain The Sun’s Friday morning flash of anger? “Meg’s mugged us orf!” with subheads talking of calls to strip the couple of their HRH titles. Maybe we don’t like rule-breakers; maybe non-conformity at the epicentre of the most conformist institution we have makes us uneasy and speaks of an innate nervousness that’s as British as red phone boxes and chips. Maybe the press just don’t like Meghan. But when the Daily Express on the morning after the Brexit Withdrawal agreement was finally passed by the House Commons chose “Furious Queen orders: sort it out now!” as its front page then you know that 2020 is going to feel very, very different to 2019.

Did you notice that the world came alarmingly close to another war this week? We tried not to think about it for fear of driving ourselves back to the comfort blanket of red meat when we promised ourselves a vegetarian January BUT following Donald Trump’s killing of the high-ranking Iranian general Qassem Suleimani and Iran’s subsequent missile-lobbing retaliation, it was hard not to imagine the very worst outcome was imminent. Thankfully, the threat of war seem to have dissipated as the week has progressed but when peace is so fragile, tensions are so taut, it’s reassuring to have such a reasonable man in charge of the world’s most powerful armed forces.

A word and a thought for Australia. We’ve all seen the pictures (The Guardian published a set of images from Kangaroo Island this week that were about as devastating as you’d imagine they could be) and we’ve all heard the stories from people whose homes have been destroyed, people who had to literally run for their lives from an oncoming wall of fire, firefighters plucking people at the last possible second . . .it’s all so sad. So sad and so scary to think that this might be the new normal if the worst predictions about the climate come to pass. Surely 2020 needs to be the year when the global fight back begins.

Anyway, we don’t think it’s burying our heads to end on a slightly lighter note so what do you fancy? A man marrying a cardboard cut out of a K-Pop star he’s spent thousands on plastic surgery trying to look like? (Thanks Ben); a woman in Devon whose knees look like Phil and Grant Mitchell? (Thanks Jules) Or how about pioneering British astronaut Helen Sharman who not only thinks aliens exist but could already be living among us which, and let’s be frank here, would explain (insert joke of your choice here).

David Bowie died four years ago today. He’s much missed. Click on the image below for the song that Helen Sharman would now demand be rewritten: is there life on Mars? No, but there’s almost certainly Martians in Kettering.

See you next week.

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