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Speed Read – The Conker Supremo’s Lament and other tales

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The Friday Speed Read

Every week, The Friday Speed uses its knowledge of the English language to read every single piece of journalism published in every single newspaper, shunning sleep, food and company in its relentless drive to bring you only the very best stories at exactly 3pm each Friday afternoon. 

You can merrily throw a number of accusations in the direction of The Friday Speed Read: overly-long; cultural references drawn from a very small window of history running from 1994 to 1999; a propensity to talk about itself in the third person. However, over its 91 (and counting) editions one thing to which we’ve always aspired is politically neutrality; if someone’s been worthy of praise then we’ve gone ahead and lavished praise (in December last year we wrote some nice things about TM the PM) and if they’ve been shoddy, silly or shameless then we call them out. Once we said that Jacob Reese-Mogg’s particular blend of double-breasted dandyism was just the fashion tonic our dour nation so desperately needed.

Okay we didn’t say that. But we might have done. The point is that we do our best not to be simply The Guardian but with fewer photos and better spelling.  However, this Swiss-style (sham) neutrality is about to be suspended for a few moments and, sorry, but we’re not going to apologise for this.

Can there have been more soul-soaring moments on the political stage that the sight of Donald Trump being openly mocked during his speech this week to the UN General Assembly? At the line “my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country”, the gathered world leaders slapped their thighs and wiped tears from their eyes. If it had been Michael McIntyre he’d have left the dais thinking, yep, good gig, nice crowd. And yes, a man of Trump’s nature is likely to respond to such humiliation with all the tools at his disposal i.e. the largest arsenal of nuclear weapons on the planet but for a few sweet moments it was a heady pleasure to see his dangerous brand of clueless hubris exposed for what it is: i.e. clueless hubris.

Right that’s it. Back to unimpeachable fence-sitting: TM the PM is lovely. Corbyn is an avuncular hero and who are the Liberal Democrats? Talking of Jeremy Corbyn, he unsurprisingly received a bucket-load of attention this week due to the fact it was Labour’s turn to host its annual beer festival posing as party conference. On Monday, The Mirror’s front page trumpeted “The Labour Revolution” teeing up the week nicely for JC’s attempt to “end ‘greed is good’ capitalism” by announcing policies that included free childcare for all, a commitment to a massive investment in green technologies, the nationalisation of the water industry and retaining the “triple lock” on pensions. On Brexit, Labour has vowed to vote against the Chequers Deal or No Deal or Any Deal that threatens UK jobs; in other words, it really really really wants a general election. Reviews for Corbyn were mixed but predictable: “Corbyn’s UK would face economic deep freeze” (The Telegraph); “Bills to soar £2000 a year under Labour” (Express) and “Labour to rebuild Britain” (Mirror).

On Thursday, most papers were united in their coverage of an investigation by website Bellingcat claiming that one of the two suspects named by the UK for his role in the Salisbury poisoning of Sergey and Yulia Skripal, was NOT WHO RUSSIA SAYS HE IS. As revelations go, this one’s up there with bears, woods, popes and Catholics but it turns out that innocent Cathedral-loving tourist Ruslan Boshirov is actually a “Russian colonel decorated by Putin” (The Telegraph). Russia, of course says that the claim is nonsense and what is the world coming to if two ordinary guys can’t just fly into a country for 48 hours on fake passports for a fix of ancient clocks and world-beating spires?

Back to America and the testimony of Dr Christine Blasey Ford in front of a Senate committee (comprised of mostly men) who accused Trump’s Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh of a sexual assault while they were both teenagers. Kavanaugh has damned the proceedings as a political witch hunt and Trump himself, seemingly admiring of the strength of Kavanaugh’s defence, has reiterated his support. Democrat vs Republican; man vs woman; one word against another, America has never seemed so divided.

After a strong week in the pun department last week, The Sun came back to earth with the story of a lost beluga whale in eastern Thames, “the only whale is Essex” (5/10 – improvement needed).

The “other news this week” paragraph begins with a universal kicking for David Beckham after avoiding a speeding fine via smart use of a lawyer dubbed My Loophole (“Bend the law like Beckham” – The Sun); The Daily Star patted itself on its back for winning “the salad cream wars” after Heinz reversed its decision to rename its off-yellow condiment “Sandwich Cream”; 300 new words have been added to the official Scrabble Dictionary including everyday favourites such as “ok” and “qapik”; and in a grim taste of what’s in store on Planet News next week, Friday’s Telegraph front page was given over to a massive picture of its star contributor Boris Johnson and his “plan for a better Brexit”. The timing of which, just a few days before the start of the Conservative Party conference, is of course just a coincidence.

Finally, it’s been a big week for The Friday Speed Read’s Slug and Conker Desk which, to be honest, is not the busiest of the various departments who work determinedly each week to bring you this column.  However, for the S and C guys, all their Christmases came at once with the news that slugs have outwitted all the traditional impediments used by gardeners to protect their crops (egg shells, wool, grit, copper tape, changing the WiFi password) in tests carried out by the RHS; and the UK is currently suffering a CONKER CRISIS. On Friday morning, the Star’s front page rather brilliantly reported that “Germany Conkers Britain”, detailing the panicked buying of Teutonic Horse Chestnut seeds after the long hot summer has rendered the UK crop small and brittle.

‘Conker Supremo’ St John Burkett is in a right funk, warning that the World Conker Championship “could be ruined by a weak batch of nuts”. And you thought a No Deal Brexit was bad.

There aren’t too many songs about conkers in the world, although they are mentioned in “That was me” by Paul McCartney, a man who’s been all over the place this week in support of his new album. Problem is, in the pantheon of McCartney songs “That Was Me” is more “Ob la di” than “Hey Jude”. So here’s Hey Jude.

See you next week.








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