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The Friday Speed Read
Every week The Friday Speed Read pops the most potent story pills from the blister pack of current affairs and washes them down the throats of our readers in one near-fatal dose. You should start feeling better by Sunday.
It’s been an odd week. And we realise that in the context of the last couple of years, the concept of “odd” has been stretched almost beyond recognition but after being laid low by the Donald Trump of ear infections, this week’s column is brought to you via a cocktail of Amoxicillin laced with French paracetamol of a dose larger than is legal in the UK. So yes, it’s been very odd and we apologise in advance for any omissions, errors and an excess of references to Grand Designs’ Kevin McCloud, the Plato of the building site, whose soft-voiced likening of pre-fabricated wooden trusses to fundamental facets of the human condition has been the soundtrack to the week.
Beyond the sofa, the world continued to spin and alongside multiple photographs of Jodie Whittaker in her role as the new Doctor Who (critical consensus: she’s really good and you can hear what she’s saying) Monday’s front pages featured widespread coverage of the latest report by the International Panel on Climate Change. The report made for sobering reading, reiterating the risk to well, pretty much everything from rising temperatures and calling for international targets to be reduced to just 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. And the chances of this happening? Well, there’s grounds for small amounts of hope, and there’s lots of people doing lots of great work, but with an American president sceptical, at best, about whether climate change even exists, then we can assume there’s trouble ahead. And that’s putting it lightly.
But you know what, despite headlines such as “The last chance to save the world” (BBC News), the biggest story of the week was not the earth’s headlong dive towards environmental Armageddon but rather the drunken snog between two people from the telly who, snog aside, even the strictest Strictly fanatic would have forgotten about by January. Not now though. And so it came to pass that alongside a high-kicking chorus line of tabloid headlines of varying quality (“Strictly Come Grovelling”; “Blame it on the Boozy”; “We are sorry for drunken snog”; “You are cha-cha chucked”) the public excoriation of comedian Seann Walsh and dancer Katya Jones became the story of the week. It speaks to Strictly’ popularity that even on Thursday, a clear five says since the Sun broke the story, the pair’s solemn, ashen faces were still staring blankly from the front pages.
Away from the “Strictly curse”, the papers enthusiastically returned to one of their favourite pastimes: kicking large corporations for their failure to pay appropriate levels of tax. This week, it was the turn of Facebook and Cadbury’s (or more specifically their American owners Mondelez) to feel the ire of headline writers. On Tuesday, the Sun greeted the news that Facebook paid just £7M of tax on an income of £1.2bn with the pithy: “Sweet F all” (the F being the Facebook logo . . . it doesn’t work as well written down admittedly but hey, we’re scraping the barrel this week) and then on Thursday, The Mirror took aim at Mondelez with a lesson in poor headline writing. A lesson we’re from which we’re all going to learn in the subsequent paragraph.
Hello, welcome to “Headlines not Shedlines”, a new training strand that we’re launching this week and will run . . . oh, we’ve just heard it’s already been cancelled so enjoy it while you can. Anyway, here was The Mirror’s Thursday front page: “Less than buttons*”, it shouted, alongside a lengthy explanation that Mondelez had paid a piddling amount of tax in the UK and a picture of a packet of Cadbury’s Chocolate Buttons. But note the asterisk. At the bottom of the page was a note explaining the pun: (*in other words nothing), it added helpfully. Now listen, we’re not saying that tabloid journalism is easy, quite the opposite in fact, but in a month in which we’ve enjoyed the wonder of “The Novichockle Brothers” (see last week’s edition of TFSR), having to footnote your own puns suggests an improvement is needed.
This week’s ‘news other than Strictly snogging” paragraph starts with statistics showing that Millennials are shunning booze in record numbers; pies and pizzas are to be shrunk to stop our fat nation getting any fatter; Taylor Swift is going to vote Democrat; low morale among judges is going to be tackled via a pay rise of £60,000 (that should certainly help); a Brexit deal is edging closer but things are going to get messy with the DUP over the Irish border (as was inevitable); Pret A Manger’s ‘fresh’ baguettes are actually made up to a year ago and IN FRANCE, as if that nation knows anything about breadmaking; and employers are being forced to reveal the gap in pay between employees of different ethnicities and the Daily Mail is very cross about it.
And finally, everyone loves a wedding don’t they? And a ROYAL wedding, well that’s just glorious. Remember Harry and Meg’s bash? The sunshine! The crowds! The dress! Well, today we get to show our love for hereditary privilege all over again as Princes Eugene (daughter of Andrew and Fergie from the 80s) marries a posh bloke in Windsor. Well, it’s safe to say that Minor Royal Wedding Fever is not as severe as the full-strained variety and there’s been a fair bit of grumbling about the cost to the taxpayer of policing the event, the Star even gave away “Souvenir Sick Bags” in its Friday edition, but you know, they couple seem to be in love and we’re too high on painkillers to get cross. Just one word of advice to the Princess: if ever Strictly invites you to participate in a special royal edition, run very quickly in the opposite direction.
To play us out, here’s a track from what’s going to be one of the biggest albums of the year: the soundtrack to the film A Star Is Born, starring the unfairly talented Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga. You’ll be hearing this A LOT in the next few weeks.
* it sounds a bit like “amok”, so running amok (amoxicillin) through the week’s news. There, so now you know.