Speed Read - The US military strikes back against irritating gender reveal parties
Sector: News
Speed Read

When you have billions of dollars’ worth of cutting-edge, terrifyingly capable military aircraft stationed at bases around the country, it’s got to be tricky to know what do with them in times of relative peace. An F22 fighter might well have a top speed of a pretty swift 2,414 km/h but it’s not that practical for shopping; I mean for a few bits from Lidl it’s fine, you can squirrel away the sourdough loaf and solar-powered camping torch next to the ejector seat handle (careful!!) but for a big shop it’s next to useless: no space for your bags and if you’ve ever tried parking a $206 million dollar jet at Tesco in the centre of Weston-Super-Mare, you’ll know that it’s a fool’s errand.

Thank goodness then for a recent spike in the number of mysterious objects in the sky over the US. The F22 pilots, those not stuck in terrible one-way-systems outside provincial supermarkets in the UK (and there are a few of these) have finally been able to use their planes for something approaching useful. Yee-har!

As you’ll be aware, the US military shot down a “Chinese spy balloon” over the Atlantic on the 4th of February. The Chinese don’t agree that it was a “spy balloon” but claim that it was “for weather forecasting and /or children’s parties”. There then followed several more items appearing in US airspace which were also shot down by our good friends the F22 pilots.

Now, we shouldn’t really be sharing this with you because of national security blah blah blah, but I’ve got a friend at the Pentagon, let’s call him Simon Arthur Uppermiddle (because that’s his name) who owes me a favour after I did a massive tip run for him when he was clearing out his house and he’s emailed me a list of all the things shot down by the US in the past week or so.


1 x Chinese spy balloon (had cameras attached and a sign saying “not a spy balloon” but that wasn’t enough to throw us off the scent).

1 x IT’S A BOY! balloon from a gender reveal party – shot down because these kind of parties are annoying and if it takes an intervention from the world’s one remaining superpower to discourage people from holding them then that’s a good use of resources.

1 x magpie (unlucky for some, not least the magpie)

1 x cloud – shaped like a monster to be fair. I mean yes, it turned out to be a patch of nimbostratus but what if it HAD been a monster? You can’t be too careful.

1 x Football kicked by Harry Kane over the crossbar during England’s World Cup quarter final against France in Qatar on 10th of December. (SPORTS SATIRE!)

3 x other unidentified balloons that were floating in a way that really creeped us out.

And so on.


I should also point out that none of the items removed from US airspace via missile had any sort of alien element despite much speculation to the contrary, including the front page of the Daily Star on Tuesday that featured massive picture of E.T. (the alien from the film not Emma Thompson) with a quote from an US air force general who said he “couldn’t rule out aliens” before then ruling out aliens.

Tweet of the week (not a new Speed Read feature) was from sex-pot physicist Prof. Brian Cox:


I’ve always suspected that an advanced alien civilisation with the technology to travel at close to light speed across interstellar distances would arrive in Earth orbit unobserved and proceed to dispatch a fleet of small, easily detectable balloons into our atmosphere.


Sometimes I am proud to be British.

Oh goodness, I’ve spent 630 words banging on about balloons and it’s actually quite a busy news week so please forgive the following hurtle through some other stories, all of which deserve more than the cursory glance I am going to throw at them.

Nicola Sturgeon surprised even the most astute political rune-readers this week by announcing her resignation as First Minister of Scotland, citing 24-hour pressure, no time for friends or leisure and because it was just time for a change. I’ve always admired Sturgeon (not that she gives a hoot what I think) and despite all the Unionist celebrations in the Telegraph, Express etc this week at the news of her departure and therefore the assumed set-back to the Independence movement, I am certain British politics will be a poorer place for her absence.

The search for Nicola Bulley continues with seemingly no progress made. A couple of days ago the police decided to reveal that she suffered a “crisis” after she’d stopped taking menopause medication which led to some “significant issues with alcohol”. Quite why the police felt the release of such information would help their investigation is baffling but I find myself in the deeply unusual position of agreeing with Suella Braverman when she said that she was “concerned”. I’d go a bit further and suggest that it was deeply disrespectful, uniquely unhelpful and misogynistic.

GREAT NEWS on inflation, it’s only at 10.1%. With food inflation somewhere around 16%. There are better times ahead! Assuming you can make it that far.

I’m sure all of us utility bill payers will have delighted in yet more record profits for energy companies announced this week. Centrica, the parent company of British Gas, managed to bank a tidy £3.3bn profit last year. I’m sure you’ll be as happy as I am about it as will all the people that British Gas forced pre-payment meters onto after struggling to pay their bills. To cite a reference strictly for the over 45s – If you see Sid, tell him he’s been taken for a fool.

Talking of the 1980s, another iconic brand bit the dust this week with the announcement that Lilt, everyone’s favourite sugar-bomb of fake Caribbean tropicana, will be rebranded as Fanta and therefore slip from the nation’s consciousness. What next? Dixons? Woolworths? Opal Fruits? Philip Schofield? It’s appalling.

Other news? Well yes, there was some. A new Bansky appeared on a wall in Margate on Valentine’s Day featuring a seemingly-abused housewife putting the corpse of her abuser in a freezer – the freezer was real and it has been now been removed. Twice. Science has discovered that humans need more sleep in winter and there’s speculation that there might be breakthrough on the so-far so-shambolic post-Brexit trading agreements with the EU in Northern Ireland. Expect some people to be very angry whatever the outcome.

Uber-indie US trio Yo Le Tengo have just released their 17th album (they formed in 1984) and it is all kinds of excellent. The album is called “This Stupid World” and this track ‘Fallout” is a neat summation of why, for all my cross-genre wanderings, loud, washy, guitars with mumbled lyrics will always hold a very special place in my heart.