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The Friday Speed Read
Every week. The Friday Speed Read fairy-steps along the high wire of current affairs, with only a long pole and a keen eye to keep it from falling into the shark-infested waters below . . step, step, stepargrh!
Oh hello there. You’ve arrived for your weekly dose of rambling news summary have you? Well, as the song almost goes, we knew you were coming so we’ve got all Mary Berry on you and have baked a cake. So, kick of your shoes, loosen the waistband on that excellent pair of slacks that has recently wowed even the more fascistic fashionistas in the office and help yourself a generous slice of the (queen) Victoria sponge that’s been baked and then slathered with cream and jam to celebrate the birth of you know who. Do you like it? It’s good isn’t it? We’re particularly proud of the way we’ve managed to faithfully render Harry’s beard line via careful dusting of hundreds-and-thousands atop the icing.
It’s been an odd week. And not simply because it’s been only four days in length. We presume things happened on Monday, great things perhaps, world-shaking, time-stopping, heart-pumping things but let’s be honest they passed all of us by, didn’t they? The news-ninjas that work so damned hard to bring you the Friday Speed Read every week made full use of a day away from the current-affairs cliff face and went to the cinema on Monday to see Avengers: Endgame so had very little time for a anything else (favourite bit by a mile: Iron Man’s semantic musings on the fact that they are they “avengers” not the “prevengers” – “we do our best work after the event”). No, it’s been an odd week for the fact that it’s been dominated not by Brexit, Trump and spiralling existential crises but by football. And babies.
Well, one baby. Born to Harry and Meghan in the early hours of the week but, thankfully, announced to the world in plenty of time for the newspapers to press the massive BABY BUTTON for their Tuesday editions, the royal child was not yet 24 hours old and he was already one of the most famous people in the world. But he didn’t yet have a name (more of which later) and there was no photograph available, two factors that, in more saner climes, you may have presumed would have been an impediment to extensive coverage. But of course not. So here’s the full countdown of Tuesday’s coverage of the birth of a baby that was yet to have a name or a photograph (and yes, you already know which paper is at number 1 but for the sake of drama let’s just pretend that it might be the Guardian):
Eighth Place: The Guardian – headline: “Humanity facing ‘urgent threat’ from loss of Earth’s natural life” (blimmin’ heck Guardian, this is meant to be a party); 1 page of (begrudging) baby worship
Seventh: The Star – “American actress has baby”; 1 page of baby worship
Sixth: The Times – “NHS looks abroad for thousands of nurses”; 2 pages of baby worship
Fifth: The Daily Express – “It’s a boy!”; 11 pages of baby worship
Fourth: The Mirror – “I’m so incredibly proud of my wife”; 11 pages of baby worship but in a “Royal Baby Special” so beats the Express
Third: The Sun – “Sonrise at Windsor” (good effort but had to give context of early morning birth to explain the pun); 16 page pull-out of baby worship
Second: The Telegraph – “This little thing is absolutely to die for”; special, large-format “special commemorative supplement” of baby worship
And First (of course): “This little thing is absolutely to die for”; 23 pages of “unrivalled pictures and reports” of baby worship.
That’s 23 pages. Twenty three. Goodness. Anyway, you know the rest. The baby was called Archie which upset some readers of the Mail because “Archie” is a diminutive form of the (silly) name Archibald and you can’t give posh babies diminutive names. Apparently. But most people thought it was nice enough and then there was a lovely photo released of Archie meeting the Queen (he didn’t look interested to be honest) and then . . . let’s talk about the football shall we?
Even the most avowed footballphobe can’t have missed the fact that it’s been quite the week for English football men in European football competitions (the Brexit satire needle is twitching but, for once, we’re not going to go there). On Tuesday night, the Liverpool football men overturned a three-goal deficit from the first leg, to beat the Barcelona football men four goals to nil to reach the final of the Champions League. You know what? This is affected cynicism; it was an incredible performance and a reminder of why sport, at times, can out-punch the most lauded of rivals when it comes to sheer entertainment value. The next day, apparently, TM the PM shuffled into Cabinet and said that Liverpool’s victory over Barcelona was both inspiring and EXACTLY THE SAME as the forthcoming victory of her Brexit agreement. Everyone else in the meeting looked at the sky, groaned or was sick, with some doing all three (which was messy. Or Messi).
The following night, Spurs staged a similarly unlikely comeback in the other Champions League semi-final against Ajax and then, should TM need any more embarrassing analogies, on Thursday night both Chelsea and Arsenal won through to the final of the Europa League, which is a competition for football men who aren’t quite as good as the other football men in the other final. Having four teams from the same country in all four “berths” in the two major European finals has never happened before in the history of the Earth and PROVES that although we live in a country in which Nigel Farage’s made-up Brexit party will win thousands of votes in the forthcoming European parliamentary elections (yes, they are happening) based on a policy of standing on jerry-rigged platforms and repeating the word “betrayal” until it’s meaningless BUT foreign billionaires have made ENGLISH FOOTBALL GREAT AGAIN.
Cripes. The word count. Quickly then: Danny Baker was sacked by the BBC for a stupid tweet about the royal baby; David Beckham was banned from driving for using his phone at the wheel; school children are getting less free time at school than in the 90s and it’s having all sorts of consequences for their social skills; Jeremy Corbyn thinks the forthcoming EU elections shouldn’t be about the EU; the Lib Dems have taken the contrary position by having a “Bollocks to Brexit” on the front of their manifesto; the tabloids have once again proved that no one under 40 actually reads them with widespread front page coverage on Friday of the death of “legendary” comedian Freddie Starr – older types will appreciate the Sun’s headline: “Freddie Starr joins his hamster” but if this means nothing to you then we don’t have time to explain . . . . and to be honest you’re not missing much.
And finally, we had a bit planned about the Saxon burial site that’s been found next to an Aldi in Essex and is being hailed as “Essex’s answer to Tutankhamun” featuring a gag about this answer being expressed in the Anglo-Saxon vernacular but it wasn’t funny so we’re cutting it.
Here’s a song. It’s not about babies or football but it’s quite new and it’s brilliant. See you next week.