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Barbie’s world: the normalisation of cosmetic surgery

If Barbie were a real woman, she wouldn’t be able to walk. Her enormous head would loll forward on her spindly neck, her tiny ankles would buckle under her elongated legs, and she would be forced to move about on all fours. In the upcoming Barbie film, Margot Robbie nails her character’s toothy smile and

Latvia is alive with song again

Every five years Latvia stages a week-long song and dance festival and this year my wife’s Latvian cousins got us tickets to two of the biggest events. I had no idea what to expect. The first evening, in a vast open-air arena in the Mezaparks forest outside Riga, while the light faded behind the tall

Will mounting casualties change the debate in Ukraine?

At a small army field clinic outside Bakhmut, I watched as the body of a dead soldier was carried in. Two more soldiers followed, this time seriously injured – and this was what troops described as a ‘quiet day’. Ukraine doesn’t talk about its military deaths much and refuses to reveal any figures. There’s little

Has the Vatican abandoned beauty?

The Cathedral Church of the Holy and Undivided Trinity in the Cambridge-shire market town of Ely is one of the supreme achievements of European Gothic architecture. Its octagonal tower lifts the eye to a sumptuously restored wooden lantern from which Christ looks down in majesty. Who on Earth thinks faith can be awakened by seeing

Poland’s battle with the EU over migrant quotas

Another day, another spat between Warsaw and Brussels. This time, Poland has declined to participate in the European Union’s latest plan to relocate migrants and asylum seekers within the bloc, with countries who refuse being expected to pay €20,000 per refugee. Hungary has also voted against the pact, while Malta, Lithuania, Slovakia, Bulgaria have quietly

The changing face of the BBC Proms

There are two faces of the BBC Proms. The faces are somewhat at odds with each other. The one that everyone knows, whether they have an interest in music or not, is the Last Night of the Proms. It’s a concert consisting of a series of small musical items, or ‘lollipops’ as Sir Thomas Beecham

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What’s the point of confetti?

All things considered, probably the least of George Osborne’s concerns on the occasion of his second marriage was being showered with orange confetti by a woman apparently sympathetic to the Just Stop Oil protestors. Bingo: a whole new form of protest came into being. What is the whole confetti thing about anyway? You used to