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Speed Read – An image of modern Britain

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Each week The Friday Speed ascends News Mountain with its grandfather’s binoculars to spot the biggest stories as they pass by on the breeze. It’s a lonely job but an important one and so we keep climbing.

If you were in the market for an image that somehow captured the spirit of the age; one that distilled the true sense of what it’s like to be knocking around on this silly island of ours in the year 2018, then what would you choose?  Would you go classical? Half-close our eyes and pretend that we’re living in a canvass by Constable? Maybe Banksy’s grenade-throwing teddy bear would be nearer the mark? We’re cute but we’re dangerous. Or what about a filtered, pouting selfie posed in a nightclub mirror and then shared with a world that just shrugs and wonders why we’re trying so hard to impress?

On Bank Holiday Monday The Daily Star’s front page provided us with another candidate for a totemic image of modern Britain. Alongside the headline, “Brexit mess to dump UK right in it”, it went on to explain that a no-deal Brexit would result in “at least 13 miles of Portaloos” along the M23 to provide “facilities” for the hundreds of truck drivers that will be stuck in queues for customs checks at Dover.

We are the UK. You shall know us by our bogs.

That said, a “No Deal” Brexit might be slightly less likely this week following various comments from Michel “Ils sont fous ces Anglais” Barnier who suggested that the UK would get a “unique” trade deal and that absolutely everything would be brilliant. Well, not the second bit and maybe he didn’t even mean the first bit given that a day later Barnier appeared to have changed his tune and said that “No deal” was still very possible. This piece of mini-revisionism didn’t prevent the Pound going up and the Express (“EU WILL offer UK special deal”) and the Mail stringing up the bunting and declaring victory over those slimy Euro-types. What’s the French for “IN YOUR FACE!”? (answer: “Dans ta gueule!”) Well, that was the tone.

Meanwhile in Africa, TM the PM was so dizzy with excitement about spending five days without any need to talk to Liam Fox, that she busted out some funky dance moves not once but TWICE as she toured around various nations in search of trade deals (because for reasons that we can’t fathom it would seem that we’re suddenly in need of trade deals with nations that we’ve successfully ignored for the past forty years). TM the PM suggested modestly that her dance skills “would not be good enough for Strictly” but you’re wrong Theresa. Your unsuitability for Strictly has nothing to do with the fleetness of your heel-turn or the precision of your reverse fleckeryll, no, it’s simply because WE KNOW WHO YOU ARE. This renders you ineligible.

It’s rare that The Friday Speed Read finds space for a “Food and Drink” paragraph but gastrophiles rejoice, we’ve serving up not just one but TWO right here and now for your pleasure. First the good news, as reported by pretty much everyone on Wednesday, that eating cheese and meat is really good for you! Yep, that’s right! Doctors at The University of McDonalds McMaster in Canada reckon that three portions of dairy and one and half portions on meat a day will reduce your chance of an untimely death by a quarter. YAS QUEEN! And even better is that you’ll be able to take a new slimming pill to shed all that extra timber you pile on – “Holy grail pill beats middle-aged spread” (The Telegraph, plus others). In less bouncy foody news, the summer drought means food prices are rising, including the cost of bacon (“Bacon butty crisis” – The Star) which is in short supply because in the hot weather pigs would rather just lie around the place rather than make love (get piggy with it) with their partners.

Paragraph Two of our food and drink special begins with Thursday’s near-ubiquitous front-page news that the government is going to ban the sale of energy drinks to children on account of them brewed from equal parts sugar, caffeine and hate. Elsewhere the Times suggested that the “Mediterranean diet” is an effective cure for impotence (are you listening pigs?) and Bake Off is back and, as ever, it wraps itself around you like a warm oven-glove, gently rocking you back and forth and whispering in your ear that everything’s going to be alright. Except that it is A FIX (The Sun) because Week 1 star baker Manon has been on another cooking show and is FRENCH. Is nothing sacred?

In this week’s other news that’s not to with food and drink, longer holidays can add years to your life; Ant has been replaced by Holly for the next series of I’m a Celebrity; it’s been a terrible week for Corbyn for whom the anti-Semitism allegations edge ever-closer to bringing him down;  payday loans company Wonga has gone into administration (no one cried); high pollution levels can reduce intelligence; French and English fishermen scrapped off the Normandy coast over scallops; Meghan Markle wore a skirt and everyone saw her knees (front page of nearly every paper); Iain Duncan Smith has nailed the solution to soaring gang violence – more stop and search, a strategy that has proven successful so many, many times before, and 250 miles above the earth the International Space Station has been punctured by a small rock. You don’t need to be Neil Armstrong to realise that holes in space ships tend to be bad news but how do you mend them? Here’s a genuine extract from the live feed from the ship:

“Right now Alex (Alexander Gerst, European Space Agency astronaut) has got his finger on the hole and I don’t think that’s the best remedy for it”.

A bit later on, a strip of gaffer tape replaced Alex’s finger while Nasa works out how to affect a more permanent solution.

And finally, The Times on Wednesday reported that the noble art of clowning is in decline. According to Clowns International (which should be a band name) children are no longer interested in big shoes and red noses and would rather by entertained by Jack Sparrow or Elsa from Frozen. “Times have changed”, said a clown spokesman as his car fell apart.

And there we go. Welcome to Britain. An unemployed clown sits weeping on a Portaloo beside a motorway, unable to afford a bacon sandwich.  Smile for the camera!

See you next week.

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