Is 2023 a bad year for forest fires in Europe?

Boss pay Julia Hoggett, chief executive of the London Stock Exchange, complained that FTSE 100 bosses aren’t paid enough, and suggested that the gap between UK bosses and US bosses needs to be closed if the London market is to prosper. How much are FTSE 100 bosses paid? – The median earnings in 2021 for a FTSE 100 boss was £3.41m and the mean £4.26m. Three were paid less than £1m, 57 between £1m and £4m, 35 between £4m and £10m and three more than £10m. Two changed jobs during the year and so aren’t included in the figures – But the best-paid FTSE chief executive wasn’t even in the

Where have the world’s highest temperatures been recorded?

Swing when you’re winning What are the biggest UK by-election swings? — The 1983 Bermondsey by-election saw a 11,756 Labour majority turned into a 9,319 majority for the Liberal party – a result widely attributed to the Labour candidate, Peter Tatchell, coming out as gay during the campaign. The Labour party under Michael Foot was also extremely unpopular – and had its then biggest defeat in a general election four months later. — The Clacton by-election of 2014 saw a 12,068 Conservative majority overturned into a Ukip majority of 12,404, with the Conservative share of the vote falling from 53% to 25%. However, it was unusual in that the Ukip

Fact check: Is Sadiq Khan right about fires?

Will global warming condemn Britain to more fires? Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, has been widely quoted this morning comparing recent fires around the capital to the Blitz. ‘Yesterday was the busiest day for the fire service in London since the second world war,’ he said – climate change caused the heatwave which ‘led to the fires’. He added that he was dismayed that the Tory leadership contenders were not discussing this ‘elephant in the room.’ So is this right – or misleading? As so often, it’s a mixture. Khan is correct to say that the number of calls to London fire brigade was a record high: it received more

Did Storm Eunice really break records?

Blow by blow Did Storm Eunice really set a new record for wind speed in England? A 122 mph gust measured at the Needles on the Isle of Wight is, according to the Met Office, provisionally the fastest ever recorded in England. Greater speeds have been measured in Scotland: 173 mph on Cairngorm summit on 20 March 1986 and 142 mph at Fraserburgh on 13 February 1989. Northern Ireland, too, has recorded a faster gust, of 124 mph at Kilkeel, County Down on 12 January 1974. Last week’s record is only provisional. One suspect detail is that it is more than 30 mph faster than any gusts recorded elsewhere. The

The wishful thinking of COP26

History records that George II was the last British king to lead his troops on the battlefield, at the Battle of Dettingen in 1743. But maybe it is only a matter of time… Addressing the COP26 summit in Glasgow Prince Charles called for a ‘vast military-style campaign’ against climate change. We must put ourselves on a ‘war-like footing’, marshalling the resources of the private sector as we did during wartime. I look forward to the sight of Charles, on horseback, leading a battalion against Xi Jinping’s People’s Army to try to take the site of China’s latest coal-fired power station. There is a very big problem with this kind of

It’s no wonder young people have ‘eco-anxiety’

Is it any wonder that children and young adults are going down with ‘eco-anxiety’ , as claimed in an opinion piece in the BMJ this week? One of the pieces of evidence it cites is a survey published in 2020, which claimed that 57 per cent of child psychiatrists had dealt with patients who were feeling anxious about climate change. It would be easy to dismiss this as another case of the ‘snowflake generation’ lacking the toughness of their forebears. But even if it is true that earlier generations of children, such as those brought up during the second world war, seemed to cope much better with the genuine threat

We are in a perfect storm of perfect storms

When my husband’s whisky glass fell off the little table next to his chair on to next door’s cat, which was on an unauthorised visit, provoking it to make a speedy exit, en route scratching the postman, who had for a change that afternoon rung the bell to deliver a parcel instead of putting a little card through the door saying we were out, it was, my husband averred, a perfect storm. He really meant he had fallen asleep and let his copy of The Spectator fall. We are in a perfect storm of perfect storms. ‘A perfect storm has arisen due to a combination of factors relating to Brexit

Pet project: how many dogs and cats are there in Britain?

Escape velocity The evacuation of Afghanistan was likened to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. What were the logistics of that operation? — Although most US troops had left Vietnam, 5,000 civilians remained. Some left during the month, but ambassador Graham Martin gave the order to evacuate everyone only on 29 April. — The only available airbase had been shelled and there were no sea or land routes, so the only way out was by helicopter. In 24 hours 7,000 people were evacuated, including 5,500 Vietnamese citizens. Helicopters took off from the US embassy compound every ten minutes. — It was a 50-minute ride to US warships waiting

Britain, climate change and the reality of extreme weather events

‘Extreme weather will be the norm,’ says the Guardian. Britain is gaining a more ‘violent’ climate according to Sir James Bevan, chief executive of the Environment Agency. ‘The UK is already undergoing disruptive climate change with increased rainfall, sunshine and temperatures, according to scientists,’ wites the BBC’s ‘environmental analyst’ Roger Harrabin. But how many people making these sorts of claims have actually read the Met Office’s report – the ‘State of the UK Climate 2020’ – as opposed to merely reading the press release? Not for the first time, the real data presents a very different world from the one depicted in the increasingly hysterical reporting on climate change. Firstly,

Is rain getting heavier?

Reinventing the wheels Skateboarding made its debut at the Olympics. Who invented the skateboard? — There are many reports of homemade skateboards being created in the 1940s and 1950s by Californian surfers who wanted to continue a form of their sport out of season, but the first commercial skateboard was marketed by roller-skate company Roller Derby in 1959. The sport, however, failed to catch on until 1973, with the introduction of urethane wheels and a curve at the end of a board known as the ‘kick-tail’, which allowed acrobatics to be performed. Water logs There was more surface flooding in London. Is heavy rain becoming more common in London? The

Have tennis players always been expected to give interviews?

Game, set, chat Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open after being fined $15,000 for failing to appear for a post-match press conference. Have players always been expected to give interviews? — Wimbledon was first televised live in 1937, the year of Fred Perry’s third and final victory against Gottfried von Cramm. A photo from 1938, when Bunny Austin was beaten by the US player Donald Budge in the final, shows that the post-match interview was already part of the coverage. Vaccine clots How many people in the UK have died from blood clots related to the AstraZeneca vaccine? Up to 27 May the Medical and Healthcare

How often does it snow in April?

D of E awards A few of the late Duke of Edinburgh’s lesser-known titles and honours: — Royal Chief of the Order of Logohu (Papua New Guinea); Grand Commander of the Order of Maritime Merit of the San Francisco Port Authority; Grand Cross in Brilliants of the Order of the Sun of Peru; Grand Cross of the Order of the Falcon (Iceland); Member First Class of the Order of the Supreme Sun (Afghanistan); Grand Cordon of the Supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum (Japan); Grand Cross with Chain in the Order of the Queen of Sheba (Ethiopia). Paying their respects The Duke of Edinburgh will have only 30 mourners at his funeral, thanks

Here in Texas, Hell has frozen over

Austin ‘If I owned Texas and Hell,’ General Phil Sheridan famously said, ‘I would rent out Texas and live in Hell.’ Although the weather was unusually warm for the season in central Texas we guessed something was up when, in broad daylight with hawks about, our normally crepuscular attic mice risked running down a porch pillar and gathering the spilled seed from bird feeders. They vanished completely days before the snowstorm struck. Sadly, some of our birds were not so prescient. We watched a bewildered Audubon’s warbler, which could no longer fly, hopping about in the snow. Either it had lost the main flock continuing south, or good weather had

The BBC tradition of trying to remove patriotic songs from Last Night

About Last Night It was suggested that the BBC might ‘decolonise’ the Last Night of the Proms by removing ‘Rule, Britannia’ and ‘Land of Hope and Glory’. ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ made its first appearance at the Proms in 1902 (Edward Elgar’s march had been played the previous year without the words). Sir Henry Wood’s ‘Fantasia on British Sea Songs’ followed in 1905. But the Last Night in its modern form began only with the first televised Last Night in 1947. Twenty-two years later began another tradition: the BBC trying to remove patriotic songs from the programme. The move was defeated in 1969 and again in 1990, in the

How hot does a ‘heatwave’ have to be?

Some like it hot Are heatwaves becoming a devalued currency? Last year the Met Office defined a heatwave as three consecutive days when maximum temperatures exceed the 90th percentile maximum temperature for mid-July. In London that means when the maximum exceeds 28˚C. For the rest of the south-east, as far west as Hampshire and as far north as Nottinghamshire, the threshold is 27˚C. For Dorset, Somerset, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Cheshire, Derbyshire, South Yorkshire and Lincolnshire it is 26˚C, and everywhere else, including the West Country, most of Wales, the north of England and Scotland it is 25˚C. In places it will mean a heatwave occurring in 30 to 50 per cent

My toilet ultimatum to the builder boyfriend

The rain showers had a strange and wondrous effect. All the cyclists, joggers and dog walkers that were coming from miles away to take their essential exercise in the countryside magically disappeared. No one we didn’t recognise took any essential exercise in the downpours, but then resumed it when the weather changed. I find this odd because the explanation of the day-trippers for putting their bikes and their backpacks and their hiking equipment and their picnic baskets into the backs of their cars had been that they really, really needed to do that — come hell, high water or Covid. The locked-down inhabitants of towns and cities needed to pedal

Barometer: The brands regretting calling themselves ‘Corona’

Going viral A few of the businesses which chose ‘Corona’ as a brand name and now have a bit of an image problem: — Corona beer — brand of lager owned by Anheuser Busch InBev. — Corona Energy — gas and electricity supplier to businesses and the public sector. — Corona Pine Furniture — range from Mercers Furniture of Rotherham. — Corona ‘the 2D game engine’ — software for designing video games. — Corona, the ‘lemon capital of the world’, a city of 160,000 people 45 miles from LA. — And one which changed its name in time: Corona lemonade — South Wales manufacturer taken over by Britvic in 1987

What did psychics predict was going to happen in 2019?

Bah humbug Some of the things reported to have been banned this Christmas: — Mulled wine banned from being sold by street traders at Christmas fayres in Castleford, West Yorkshire, on the grounds it would break a Public Spaces Protection Order designed to stop street drinkers. — Christmas lights banned by health and safety officers in Pembury, Kent, on the grounds they each weighed more than 4kg. — Children banned from sending more than one Christmas card each to classmates at Belton Lane Primary School, Grantham, on the grounds that cards are environmentally unfriendly. — Glitter banned from Marks and Spencer cards, wrapping paper and decorations. Crystal balls What psychics

What weather records were broken in 2019?

Keeping it in the family A study by the Middle East Technical University claimed to prove that the pronounced chin of Charles II of Spain and many of his Habsburg relatives was the result of marriage between cousins. Some royals who went even further: — Tutankhamun’s wife Ankhesenamun is believed to have been his half-sister. She bore two daughters who both died in infancy. — King Rama V of Siam (1868-1910), also known as Chulalongkorn, is reputed to have had 77 children with 92 different consorts, four of whom were his half-sisters. — Princess Nahienaena of Hawaii (1815-1836) bore a daughter with her brother, Prince Kauikeaouli. The baby died. Ultra

Barometer | 25 July 2019

Losing confidence The government may soon face a vote of no confidence, the second this year. How often do these votes happen — and succeed? — Since 1945, UK governments have faced votes of no confidence on 23 occasions. Only one of these has been successful — when Jim Callaghan lost by a single vote on 28 March 1979, precipitating the election which brought Margaret Thatcher to power. — There have been 24 successful votes of no confidence in history, 13 of which were in the latter half of the 19th century. — Since 1900 there have been only three — that in 1979, and two in 1924 which brought