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The Covid lab leak theory is looking increasingly plausible

In March last year, it was widely agreed by everybody sensible, me included, that talk of the pandemic originating in a laboratory was pseudoscientific nonsense almost on a par with UFOs and the Loch Ness monster. My own reasoning was that Mother Nature is a better genetic engineer than we will ever be, so something

Is Sweden ready for a woke monarchy?

Stockholm The House of Sussex may have flopped in Britain, but elsewhere it does seem to be inspiring others. Here in Stockholm a trendy podcast Värvet (The Task), known for host Kristoffer Triumf’s in-depth interviews with media and entertainment figures, had a surprise guest recently: Carl XVI Gustaf, King of Sweden. He was not so

Scotland is open – and desperate for English tourists

When I told my friends I was heading to the Outer Hebrides on holiday — escaping from London as soon as it was legal to do so — I thought they might be envious. Instead, a few were worried for my safety. ‘Just don’t say you’re from England,’ suggested one. Another encouraged me to ‘lay

In our narcissistic age, nothing beats good manners

Last week, a 20-year-old student came into my office, looking for work experience this summer. He was so polite — in a shy, understated, non-oily way — that I was very keen to help him. It was like meeting a time-traveller from the 1950s: no showing-off, just a gentle display of intelligence teased out from

Why sanctions against Putin and his allies don’t work

An ‘act of aviation piracy’ was how Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary described the forcible grounding of one of his planes in Minsk by Belarusian authorities in order to arrest a dissident who was on board. ‘A shocking assault on civil aviation and an assault on international law,’ said the UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab. The

We’ve become a nation of armchair psychiatrists

Are we becoming a nation of amateur psychoanalysts and armchair psychiatrists? We all speak the language of therapy and are quick to diagnose and label friends, strangers and even loved ones. Prince Harry does it to his wife Meghan Markle in a forthcoming five-part series on mental health for Apple TV that he’s co-produced with

The many failures of China’s vaccine programme

At the start of the year Sebastián Piñera, president of Chile, went to Santiago airport personally to greet a consignment of vaccines from China. ‘Today is a day of joy, excitement and hope,’ he said from a podium on the tarmac. ‘As you see behind me, there is the plane that brought a shipment of

Notes on...

Crunch time: why has Walkers changed its salt and vinegar crisps?

Henry Walker might never have got into the crisp business were it not for the fact that his Leicester butcher’s shop was hit by meat rationing after the second world war. In 1948, when Walkers and Son started looking at alternative products, crisps were becoming increasingly popular — and so they shifted to hand-slicing and