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Speed Read: Shimmy up a ladder to Jupiter’s larger moons

Every week, The Friday Speed Read spends longer trying to write this inconsequential introduction than can really be justified given both the length of its to-do list and the average level of quality that it manages in doing so.

Love. Is a burning thing. And it makes a fiery ring . .  . just ask Sajid Javid who’s spending the early hours of the feast of Saint Valentine sitting in his pyjamas, listening to old Johnny Cash LPs and wondering how he ended up being the shortest serving Chancellor of the Exchequer in history. Seriously, Larry Downing Street cat has made more enduring economic decisions than poor old Saj (less tax on Whiskas; more tax on mice and, for giggles, state grants for those scratchy posts you put in the sitting room which your cat looks at with amused disdain before then sinking its claws into your new sofa) and as he sits staring blankly out of the window like a character in a subtitled film, he curses himself for not being more prepared for yesterday’s storm.

But who could possibly have been prepared for Storm Boris which hit on Thursday morning and left a trail of ex-ministers in its wake. Buoyed and propelled by the winds of an 80-plus Commons majority, Johnson was able to purge his government of anyone who’d ever disagreed with him or laughed at his hair. To be fair, no one’s likely to spurt salty tears of lament for Andrea Leadsom (remember her? She said that she’d be a better Tory leader than TM the (ex) PM because she was a mother) but Julian Smith? Patently the most successful and liked Northern Ireland secretary for years, respected by all sides on both sides of the border? Nope. You weren’t sufficiently excited about Brexit mate. You’re fired.

As for Javid, word is that he was offered the chance to stay on as Chancellor but only if he sacked all of his staff and replaced them with a team chosen by Number 10. Admirably, he told the Prime Minister to get on his (Boris) bike and that was that. The new Chancellor is Rishi Sunak who likes Star Wars but not nearly as much as he likes Boris Johnson. And doormats.

The Friday newspapers enjoyed themselves immensely: “Brutal Johnson . . “ (The Guardian); “Boris the Iron Man tightens his grip” (The Express); “Johnson brings Treasury to heel” (The Telegraph); and the Daily Mirror fired up Photoshop to create an image of Johnson dangling on the ends of wires controlled by the splayed fingers of a mad-eyed Dominic Cummings alongside the headline: BLOODBATH.

In more Johnson news (we promise we’ll bang on about something else shortly) but this week Number 10 confirmed that with the blessing of Stormy Johnson, a team of people who know about these things is looking into the feasibility of building a bridge from Scotland to Northern Ireland. You’d imagine it would be a very short meeting given both the distance, climate and large depository of unexploded second world war ordnance that’s lying on the seabed but, who knows? In the week that HS2 was finally given the go-ahead, maybe we’re entering new era of building really REALLY big stuff that should keep Channel 5 in documentary topics for the next century? Here’s a few more MEGAPROJECTS that are in currently in the planning stage:

  • Rebuilding Milton Keynes entirely out of glass and a metre and a half to the left
  • A ladder linking Leeds with one of the larger moons of Jupiter, ideally Ganymede (but definitely NOT Europa)
  • A vegan monorail that runs around the entire UK coastline (weekends May to Sep only)
  • Waterslides in every hospital: greater efficiency, more fun – win, win.  
  • Refurbished toilets at Leigh Delamere services

We’ll make sure we keep you posted on progress.

Earlier in the week, headlines were dominated by Storm Ciara which (not ‘who’ – we can’t buy into this personification thing unless it’s pursuit of a good gag and we can’t think of one right now) “battered” the country last weekend, killing two people, flooding towns and villages and ripping up trees for laughs. The Daily Express, with typical restraint, described Ciara as “the storm of the century” and indeed every front page was dominated with pictures of the destruction. And just as we were still mopping up after Ciara, the Star, with barely concealed excitement, announced that another storm was on its way: “Dennis the Menace on warpath”. This is how it’s going to be from now on so we guess we’d better get used to it.

So, when should we actually start worrying about coronavirus? Or Covid19 as it’s been rebranded (it’s not going to stick). It’s hard to not to feel a little uneasy when the papers are filled with the rising death toll in China (sad of course, but we should tell ourselves that it’s still a minute fraction of the population) and even harder when the first UK cases were confirmed this week.  A school has been closed, a doctors’ surgery has been closed, words like “super-spreader” are being used willy-nilly, it’s all getting a bit too much like “Outbreak” (with Dustin Hoffman) for our liking.  The police have been given powers to forcibly quarantine people and a real “glass half full” type from the WHO has predicted that two thirds of the world’s population may end up infected. Jeez, Ira Longini why not tell us what you REALLY think? Anyway, if you’re doing some Valentines snogging tonight then probably best that you clean your teeth first. And then quarantine yourself for fourteen days.

A quick crack of the “other news this week” whip finds lots of NEW things happening: Parasite being the first foreign language film to win Best Film at the Oscars (a good thing surely?); a new work by Banksy appearing in Bristol; a new space probe being launched on its way to the sun; Billie Eilish’s new Bond song being released to the world (verdict: it’s okay. Sounds like a Bond song but it’s no Diamonds are Forever); a new record high average temperature for the Earth (which is frankly terrifying) and the Democrats in the US do their best to come up with a candidate to become the new President of the USA. But we can’t help worrying that we’ll be stuck with the old one.

Finally, who said romance was dead? Poundland’s PR department released a story this morning saying that it has sold 40,000 engagement rings in the run-up to Valentine’s Day. Expect 40,000 more single people on Tinder from Monday.

That’s your lot. Massive LOVE to you all. Have a loving weekend. And click on the image below for the greatest love song of all time!

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