Ever since Boris Johnson was admitted to hospital on 5 April, the government has been in a holding pattern. No big decision could be taken without the Prime Minister, but he was in no position to make one. He is now back at work, though, and has a plan for what to do next. Put simply, it is to drive the coronavirus transmission rate — the reproduction number, or ‘R’, which shows the expected number of infections directly generated by one case — down as low as possible and then stay on top of it through a ‘track, trace and test’ approach.
‘Nothing makes sense in biology, except in the light of evolution,’ the splendidly named biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky wrote in 1973. It’s a good rule of thumb. Despite near-miraculous advances in medical science we remain biological beings, subject to biological laws. None is more central to our understanding of disease than evolution. Yet this theory remains poorly understood and poorly utilised in medicine. And an evolutionary perspective raises important questions about the drastic action we have been taking to confront Covid-19.
Vladimir Putin knows that a poor state is a weak state. As a middling KGB apparatchik in Dresden in 1989 he saw the USSR’s authority over its empire collapse along with its economy. Two years later, the Soviet state itself imploded, unable to feed its citizens or command the loyalty of its own security forces. Rebuilding Russia’s security apparatus back to Soviet levels and securing it against another systemic collapse has been the touchstone of Putin’s two decades in power.
The Queen said in her address to the nation that what’ll get us through the lockdown and its ramifications will be our traditional British good humour. I’m not certain. Tempers are beginning to fray — and as we are looking at another week, minimum, of house imprisonment, I predict disaster. It is getting quite tense out there.
A day or so ago my wife and I, peaceable elderly folk, were bumbling along the promenade, here on the south coast.
My friend ‘D’ is an instantly recognisable type in the Middle East: the middleman. He’s always chasing the next deal, always about to make millions. One scheme was to build a London Eye in a flyblown town in the Levant. Another was to buy a ‘Trump sex tape’ for $10 million. His latest scheme is to get the British government to buy coronavirus test kits from Turkey. This could be the big score: for biotech companies, testing is a new goldrush.
I had planned to spend this Saturday in a large white dress, sipping rosé and cutting into a three-tier rhubarb pavlova. Instead, I’ll be drinking gin on my sofa as family members dial in to offer commiserations to me and my fiancé.
I am a Covid bride — one of the many whose weddings have been put on hold because of the lockdown. While the pandemic has had many devastating and irreversible effects on people’s lives, it has also left many engaged couples with nowhere to go.
It is 178 years since the last recorded charge of blasphemy in Scotland, against the Edinburgh bookseller Thomas Paterson for ‘exhibiting placards of a profane nature’ in his shop window in 1842.
One of those placards announced that ‘Paterson & Co (of the Blasphemy Depot, London)… Beg to acquaint infidels in general and Christians in particular that… [we] will sell all kinds of printed works which are calculated to enlighten, without corrupting — to bring into contempt the demoralising trash our priests palm upon the credulous as divine revelation — and to expose the absurdity of, as well as the horrible effects springing from, the debasing god-idea.
Why do we box? It’s an almost ludicrously inefficient form of combat. The last thing the SAS suggests its soldiers to do is put their dooks up. But boxing is nonetheless the world’s leading combat sport — millions watch boxing in lockdown, and when we’re all allowed out, thousands will head first to the pub, then out into the streets and carparks, to throw punches at each other’s heads. Why?
I have the answer. It came to me by a combination of Joanna Lumley and a fight I once witnessed between cobras.
You can find the answers here
Tartan, monogram, moccasin, clog. What do your slippers say about you? Trick us all you like with your office Manolos, your Loake loafers, your Louboutin mules, it’s the shame-making slippers that will tell us the truth. Fleece-lined slob or kittenish slip-on? Millennial Mahabis or ancestral tapestry? Japanese zori or plaited huarache?
In George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, when Henry Higgins returns from the opera and exclaims ‘I wonder where the devil my slippers are!’ the stage directions note: ‘Eliza returns with a pair of large down-at-heel slippers.
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