As far as my Friday morning brain can wrangle, I see we’ve got two options for getting through this week’s Speed Read while retaining at least modicum of happiness and excitement as we head into the weekend. Because as you’ll have noticed, it’s a little bit grim out there. So here we go:
Option 1 – First half of the Speed Read is about contemporary economics; second half of the Speed Read is a collection of items gleaned from Googling “please, for the love all that’s holy, let me have some good news”.
Option 2 – A short story entitled: “Angela Starfish and the Benevolence of Summer”.
Laid out on the page like that, I think you’ll agree that there really is one viable option. So here goes:
When you’re born the daughter of Billy Starfish, a bizarre surname is the very least of your problems. Not that Angie resented her memorable patronymic; far from it . . . .
. . . . okay, we’re going to have to talk about contemporary economics aren’t we? Fancy a quick squizz at this morning’s headlines following Jeremy Hunt’s Budget? “Years of pain ahead” (The Times); “You’ve never had it so bad” (Metro); “From bad to worse” (The Guardian); “Carnage” (The Mirror); “UK’s lost decade” (i); “Tories soak the strivers” (The Mail –an odd headline choice which was accompanied by a photo of wet Chancellor and his dog). So far, so utterly depressing. The only people that seem to be happy are 1) The Daily Express celebrating “VICTORY!” after Hunt promised to keep pensions linked to inflation and The Sun because the World Cup is starting at the weekend. Even though that is, to say the least, problematic.
We’ve been through not just the mill these past years but a mill that grinds hope, prosperity, ambition, satire . . . not grain. And the millers listen to terrible music while they’re doing it. Covid, War and, in our case, Brexit (not to mention the damage wreaked by the Truss-Kwarteng madness of early autumn) have conspired to deliver what people cleverer than me are warning will be the largest drop in living standards since the 1950s. Which, given everything, is going to feel like an almighty kick to the unmentionables. And then add into the mix soaring interest rates and loaves of bread costing more than a small car did in the 1980s, you’ve got yourself a compelling case for throwing your arms into air and exclaiming, “you know what? I can’t do this . . . . “.
But we can. And we must. And, somehow, we will. Just as we kept telling ourselves in the depths of Covid, things will improve. And the same is true now. This too shall pass.
And the good news for the week? A world war has been narrowly avoided. At least for now. Yes! When the news broke earlier in the week that Russian missiles had landed in Poland killing two civilians, many feared the worst. An attack on a NATO country, by the very articles that define its existence, requires a military response from all members. In other words, NATO attacking Russia. The consequences of which would be, well, you don’t need me to play Nostradamus here . . . In the end, Poland concluded that the missiles came from Ukrainian defence systems and not Russia so all sides were able to step back from the abyss. The fact that Ukraine said that this was nonsense is now a moot point but you can’t help wonder if some tactical truth-bending is at play here and if so, perhaps we should be incredibly grateful.
NASA finally launched its unmanned Artemis (named after the twin sister of Apollo, pleasingly, rather than after a deodorant by Lynx that smells of school discos) rocket this week. The largest, most powerful rocket ever to leave Earth, Artemis I is the first stage in NASA’s planned return of humans to the lunar surface within the decade. When Artemis II launches in May 2024 it will carry people on a loop around the moon with later missions actually landing on the surface. It’s incredibly, incredibly expensive (which is very on-trend) but my goodness, it’s also really cool.
So are you going football crazy? Have you been seized by World Cup fever? Do you have your wallchart pinned up in the kitchen? Are you hoping that Kane will be able? YES! Football’s coming . . . . well not home actually, but to an absolute monarchy where homosexuality is illegal and hundreds of migrant workers have died building stadiums in which to play matches in heat that, even in November and December, is fundamentally unsuitable for outdoor sport. Try getting that to scan.
And the sad thing is that most people really like football. Especially during international tournaments. And despite some of worst excesses of some England fans with their bellies, sunburns and rioting in the grand squares and boulevards of European cities, it’s great when the team plays well. The country seems brighter, more optimistic. And then when the team lose, a grand period of mourning begins and lasts for all of 24 hours before people just shrug and get on with their lives. This is the fun. This is how it always works. But this time round, everything just feels odd. Will I watch? Probably. You can’t blame football fans for an absurd decision over the host nation. Will I feel good about it? Nope.
Hmmmm, I’m not exactly feeling the weekend fuzzies, are you? Well, how about the fact we now live in a world in which a low-fi indie band from the Isle of Wight has been nominated for four Grammy awards. Which is insane and also brilliant because they are ace and they MAKE ME HAPPY. Here’s the band playing their mega-hit Chaise Longue in France. I defy you not to feel just a little bit better having watched it.