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Speed Read – How to correctly ascertain if you’re attending a party

Every week The Friday Speed Read looks around its desk and wonders if it’s not at work but actually in the middle of a really cool party for really cool people. But then realises that no, it’s actually at work.

Over the previous 215 editions of The Friday Speed Read, I’ve always attempted to provide at least a vaguely interesting overview of the week’s biggest happenings. Admittedly this “interesting overview” has taken myriad forms ranging from the simple listing of headline puns through to a not-so-short play about the domestic arrangements of Theresa May (Theresa May satire feels like a very, very long time ago) and once even a true story about me weeping at the state of the world while listening to Kate Bush and hunting snails in my garden. This was sometime around May 2020 which I hope goes at least some way to explaining how such a moment came to pass.

For all the thousands upon thousands of words committed to “paper” every week, I don’t think I can claim that the Speed Read has ever been of any actual practical use. Yes, there have been television and film recommendations, weekly music picks and occasionally a book review, but nothing that’s been of any help to you in your everyday lives. You might well suggest that this is beyond my remit and what on earth could I possibly bring to your existence that you couldn’t bring in more concise and contemporary form yourselves? To which I say that yes, you’re right but you’re also very, very wrong as I am about now to prove as I provide what I think is going to be a utilitarian but very useful guide as you head into the weekend. So here goes.


Answer these questions in the affirmative or the negative but please be honest otherwise you’ll render the precise science of this test inaccurate.

Question 1: Has someone in your household been dispatched with the company credit card and an empty holdall to the Co-Op with an instruction to stock up on booze?

Question 2: Listen carefully. Has someone put on a playlist that contains songs that you’ve never heard before because you only usually listen to Heart FM?

Question 3: Are there any of the following sat upon a trestle table? Hula Hoops (the crisp); a hula hoop (the 70s fitness accessory); sausage rolls; cheese and pineapple on cocktail sticks pricked into an unbaked, baked potato that’s wrapped in kitchen foil; a pot of Tesco caramelised onion hummus that’s has a crust forming around its circumference; a pipe of Pringles (one of the more fringe flavours because they’re always on special offer); a Colin the Caterpillar cake; caviar; a string sack of Babybel cheese pucks.

Question 4: Are they more people in the room / upon the garden decking than would normally be in the room / upon the garden decking and do you have mixed feelings about all of them?

Question 5: Have you drunk at least three glasses of wine and are now considering seeing if that man / woman you’ve sort of fancied for ages now and with whom you’re pretty sure you’d have a profound and intense connection if only they’d get the chance to see the real you would like to go on somewhere together afterwards? And by somewhere together you mean back to their bed?

Question 6: Should you be concentrating on running the country during the most challenging period in our history since the Second World War?

Question 7:  Look at the time. If it’s later than 10.38pm has someone put on “Dancing Queen”?

Question 8: Are there currently millions of people around the country who are not allowed to mix with anyone outside their own household for fear of spreading a virus that’s killing tens of thousands and for which there is currently no known cure of vaccine?

Question 9: Have you considered starting smoking again and therefore might ask Gill if you can have one her rollies because they don’t really count do they?

Question 10: Does your LinkedIn profile say that you’re currently employed as “Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”?

If you can answer YES to any of these ten questions then we can confirm that there is a party raging in your house and / or garden and it’s definitely, definitely not “being at work”.


Okay, I shouldn’t joke. A lot of people have been made very angry this week by the revelations about the Downing Street lockdown party (sixth edition) in the Spring of 2020 when the rest of us were locked away making banana bread and taking part in Zoom quizzes while friends and relatives died alone in overstretched hospitals. There’s even a cabal of Tory MPs who’ve called for the Prime Minster’s resignation and you can understand why. This is the party that Johnson first claimed didn’t happen and then couldn’t remember if it had happened but then did remember that it had indeed happened and that he’d attended it but only because he thought it was a work event and nothing remotely like a party.

The headlines weren’t kind: “DISGRACE”; “Future on a knife-edge”; “Sorry . . . not sorry”; “Rules are only for you little people”; “Now prove you can deliver for Britain”; “Operation Save Boris”.

Will he survive? Probably. It’s clearly his worst moment as PM but until the Tory party think that he’ll lose them enough votes to endanger their hefty majority they’ll probably spare the knife. But who knows? What’s certain is that his reputation as a slippery, truth-twisting, do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do mess of a leader is going to be impossible to shake off regardless of the vaccine programme or the economic recovery.

But, he’ll be thinking this Friday morning, as bad as things are at least I am not ex-Prince Andrew.

Or Novak Djokovic .

Oh man, I had loads more in the notebook including a brilliant bit about not being able to weep for joy at the invention of “tearless” onions (called “sunions”, oddly) which will soon be hitting supermarket shelves in the UK. Shame, it was really funny. You’ll just have to imagine how dazzling and amusing it was. Thanks.

I wanted to leave myself enough time to write about the latest offering from the evergreen David Attenborough. It may have been the Sunday evening glass(es) of wine that had been consumed but as I was watching The Green Planet I was pretty sure it was one of the greatest things I’d ever seen on television. From the opening shot of the 95-year-old Attenborough talking to camera from a cable-car strung high up in the green canopy of a rainforest right through to the now standard 15 min mini-documentary at the end about how the crew captured the incredible shots to which we’d just been treated, the whole thing was absolutely magnificent. And even then, I don’t think that quite conveys how good it is. Or how precious and fragile and astounding our home truly is. Just watch it. Please.

Speed Read favourite FKA Twigs has a new album out today. Here’s one of the standout tracks featuring The (ubiquitous) Weeknd.

Have a good Weeknd yourself.

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