‘Broken France’ feels much healthier than Britain

Some business stories are useful economic signals, some are not. For example, I’m not building any hopes on news that Ferrari sales are up 15 per cent thanks to buyers demanding ‘cashmere and corduroy’ interiors. Indicative of greater realism among the very rich is the statistic that superyacht sales are down by a third following a spectacular two-year boom. And far more worrying are other maritime bulletins, one from the Danish shipping giant AP Moller-Mærsk, the other from the fiefdom of the Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing. Maersk has downgraded its forecast for global container demand this year to a fall of 1 to 4 per cent, on the basis

The ancient Greek ship that was too big for any harbour

The biggest cruise ship yet built has just been launched, but in like-for-like terms, it comes nowhere near the Syracusia, built c. 240 bc on the orders of the Sicilian tyrant Hiero II. A small ancient Greek freighter might be about 45ft long, a trireme 120ft, a large merchantman 130ft. The Syracusia was nearly three times longer, constructed out of enough material to build 60 triremes. It had three floors. The lowest contained the cargo. On the second were the 30 cabins, covered in multicoloured mosaics telling the story of Homer’s Iliad. The cooks’ galley came complete with a seawater fish-tank, with a 20,000-gallon freshwater cistern in the bow. The

Why filling Father Christmas’s sack will cost more this year

Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey looks increasingly uncomfortable as inflation notches upwards from ‘nothing to worry about’ towards the Bank’s latest prediction of a decade-high 4 per cent peak later this year and a possible ‘Oops, we’re back to the 1970s’ if spiralling wage and price pressures confound the forecasters. I wrote last week about the UK’s lack of lorry drivers, but that’s just one of many bottlenecks that need unblocking, as Bailey says, to bring ‘a wave of supply back on to the market’ and quell the blip. More significant globally, and much more difficult to resolve, is the logjam of shipping. The composite World Container Index published

Which football teams are the biggest losers?

Mounting losses The England football team beat San Marino 5-0, taking to 56 the number of competitive games that the micro-nation has gone without a victory since 1990. Has any other football team exceeded this record?— In English league football, the record number of games without a win is 36, held jointly by Derby County (2007/08) and Macclesfield Town, who have achieved the feat twice, in 2012 and 2018.— San Marino, who have won one match, a friendly against Liechtenstein in 2004, can take heart from Fort William FC, which went 73 games without a win before hammering Nairn County 5-2 in a cup game in 2019. Big canals The

From ancient Greece to TikTok: a short history of the sea shanty

Many things are now normal that would have seemed unlikely a year ago. But even in this strange new world the sudden rise of the sea shanty is, perhaps, strangest of all. It all started in December when Nathan Evans, a postman from North Lanarkshire, posted a video of himself online — a lone figure filmed in no-frills close-up, hoodie high under the chin, beanie pulled down to the eyes — singing the 19th-century whaling song ‘Wellerman’. A trickle of views became a storm, thousands turning to millions (now billions) and just like that sea shanties went from kitsch, Last Night of the Proms novelty to global phenomenon. The song