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The Friday Speed Read
Every week, The Friday Speed Read carves a series of non-traditional tribal face masks out of driftwood that has washed up on the fringes of the Bristol Channel, puts them on and then performs the highlights of the week’s news in a beguiling and hypnotic flurry of studied movements.
As (some of) the nation huddles down beneath a duvet of fresh snow, with schools closed, commutes delayed and snowmen rising, so radio stations have been sending be-wellied reporters out into the fields to file up-to-the-second reports to a gripped audience:
“We cross over now to Sally Finglebridge who’s standing next to a hedge on a road near Lostwithiel. What’s the snow looking like there, Sally?
It’s white here Melissa. The snow is really white. And it’s cold. And when I touched it earlier the snow felt quite wet. Back to you in the studio.
Brilliant Sally. That’s very insightful. We’ll come back to you later if the snow changes its physical properties in any meaningful way. Talking of meaningful, here’s Archie Damson with the weather. Gosh Archie, snow hey? It’s like frozen fairy dust isn’t it?”
At least the Daily Star is laughing. “Revenge of the snowflakes” it snorted on its Friday front page, “we warned you about ‘em”. It then rocked back and forth in its seat, rippled by mirth at its ability to strike a pun around its usual target of weedy liberals who just can’t take a harmless, good old-fashioned joke about Islam (“PC Beeb gaged by ISIS sketch says Russell Howard – The Star, Monday).
And at least you’re not living in the American mid-West (unless of course you are living in the mid-West in which case good day to you) where a “polar vortex” (which, co-incidentally, is our wrestling name) has sent temperatures into the realms of science fiction. A low of MINUS 38 degrees was recorded on Thursday morning at Mt. Carroll, Illinois which is so absurdly cold that boiling water freezes the moment it touches the air (see many videos on YouTube for a demonstration of this phenomena) and residents have been told that if they must go outside then they shouldn’t speak to anyone, lest icy air gets sucked in to their body and freezers their lungs. Cripes.
“President” Donald Trump weighed-in on the vortex because of course he did, and supplied this (terrifying) piece of analysis: “What the hell is going on with Global Waming? (sic) Please come back fast, we need you!”. Ladies and Gentlemen, we give you the most powerful man on the planet.
Right, 421 words in no mention of the B word. But we’re sorry, that’s going to change over the next couple of chunky paragraphs as the Brexit story morphs ever-further into a piece of absurdist art of a type that crouches in an obscure corner of Tate Modern and is eschewed by all but most wilfully obtuse of critics. So, with our final few weeks of EU membership silently slipping away like grains of sand though a French-made hourglass and with major supermarkets warning of food shortages if no exit deal is reached (“No Deal. No Meal”, The Mirror, Tuesday) MPs returned to parliament on Tuesday to vote on a series of amendments that potentially could force the Brexit process into a last-minute change of direction.
A joint effort by Remainer Labour and Tory MPs to make a No Deal exit from the EU legally impossible was defeated but, conversely, an amendment that ripped up the controversial Northern Ireland backstop elements of Theresa May’s much-hated deal was successful thanks largely to hearty support from Theresa May. This was of course not the same TM the PM who’d been defeated so catastrophically two weeks earlier, this was PM (TM) who thought that TM the PM was a dud and not fit to negotiate her way out of a queue for the free coffee in Waitrose let alone a 40-year relationship with our biggest training partner. TM the PM is dead. Long Live PM (TM).
This wasn’t fiction. This was our Prime Minister voting against the deal that she’d said two weeks earlier was as immutable as granite. These are strange times indeed. But regardless, this volte-face did wonders for PM (TM)’s reputation amongst the more Brexity elements of the press. “Theresa’s triumph” barked the Mail; “May unites Tories”, said the Times and the Express, well the Express didn’t dare stand up such was its excitement:
“SHE DID IT! – In one of the most remarkable turnarounds in political history our indomitable PM unites her party . . . . “.
However, as PM (TM) packed her wheely valise and prepared to return to Brussels to renegotiate the blimmin’ NI backstop that silly old TM the PM had ridiculously agreed to, there was something of ‘un éléphant dans la pièce’ in that the EU has absolutely no intention of renegotiating anything.
Donald Tusk tried a variety of languages in order to express this “No, nein, ne, nej, ei, O’hi, ni hea . .” but PM (TM) thinks he’s just bluffing. As do members of Jacob Rees Mogg’s ERG (which doesn’t stand for ‘Europe’s Really Great’) group of MPs, one of whom (name forgotten sorry, I was making a bolognaise at the time) gave an interview to 5Live on Tuesday evening saying that the intensity and implacability of the EUs refusal to remove the back-stop gives him great hope that it will change its mind. Welcome to 2019.
Goodness, look at the word count. It’s time for a rifle through the immaculate (post Marie Kondo) sock drawer of other news this week to find stories such as a robot that has been taught how to be unbeatable at Jenga (unless it’s one of those massive ones in a pub and you can make the robot sink a couple of Stellas first); an ex-Labour MP was sent to prison for lying about a speeding fine; researchers suggested that an excess of screen time in early years children may delay the development of language and sociability skills; more stabbings in London prompted Home Secretary Sajid Javid to say that he was worried for the safety of his own daughter and the Government sought to boost literacy amongst our children by training staff in Clarks shoe shops to “develop young customers’ vocabulary and help boost their confidence” as well as, presumably, nurturing their sole (s).
Finally, some gentle ribbing for Ariana Grande (who, let’s not forget showed a dignity, humanity and strength far beyond her tender years after the bomb attack in Manchester in 2017) who this week revealed her new tattoo to the world: a Japanese translation of the title of her single “7 Rings”. Or so she thought. In fact, the Japanese read: “small charcoal grill”. The world laughed. Ariana Grande laughed. And for a moment or two everyone felt a little better.
Keep warm. See you next week.
Bristol. Earlier today: