This Covid-19 crisis is changing everything. Another one – it is really weird how I am waking up every morning with an insatiable desire to make lists with 20 points on them. As Fiona often complains, ‘you always have to go one better.’ Covid-19. AC-20.
So far, my attacks of Twentitis have hopefully been providing something of a public service, like my lists here on 20 ways to guard against depression and anxiety; 20 reasons to look on the bright side, and 20 ways Boris Johnson can improve his crisis communications. (Btw his self-isolation is a fantastic opportunity for him to put it all into practice, and do detailed, factual briefings down the line.)
Anyway, this morning saw a double attack of 20-itis, and here I sit, dog walk done, breakfast not even started, and I have done two 20-points lists. This is also weird, because 20 and 20 = 40 and, as fellow etymologists will know (look it up if you’re not an etymologist), ‘quarantine’ comes from the Italian word for ‘forty’, quaranta. This was because in the 14th century, any ships suspected of carrying the plague picked up from disease-ridden countries would have to stay at sea for forty days. (See this as part of your home schooling, more public service from AC-20.)
My first list today was essentially about ways large and small in which the world has changed, and it is so good I have flogged it to GQ who will publishing it tomorrow. (Might as well make a few bob from my insomnia, given every single paid gig between now and June has gone south!)
But this one, though I say it myself, is also pretty good … 20 reasons to buy this week’s New European. Non readers assume the paper, of which I am editor at large, is just all about politics in general and Brexit in particular. Far from it.
So here are 20 reasons to check out this week’s edition. Even better, subscribe once you’ve done so.
- The front cover. Best ever, and there have been some fantastic ones since we started in the wake of the EU referendum. Designer Chris Barker has based it on the classic 1945 picture of Marines raising the American flag during the battle of Iwo Jima. in Chris’s version, the Marines are doctors and nurses, and the flag says NHS. Brilliant.
- You can buy it as a poster for a tenner. Would that not be a great present for any friends you have in the NHS. I will be getting one framed for Sissy Bridge, our next door neighbour, the nurse I piped home from work during Thursday’s 8am clap. Check out the New European shop online.
- All proceeds from the sale of the poster will go to the NHS charities appeal.
- Talking of newspaper covers as art, there is a terrific feature by my old Sunday Mirror colleague Richard Holledge on adverts as art, and the changing nature of advertising down the years, with several pages of old ads. My favourite – ‘Ask for Golfer Oats,‘ with a picture of the Golfer Oats porridge container, and one of Queen Victoria, alongside the slogan – ‘The two safeguards of our constitution.‘ Google ‘Golfer Oat Ads.’ Ps, advertisers are missing a huge trick not seeing TNE as a regular place for their ads – ABC1-heavy audience
- My personal favourite piece in the paper this week is headlined ‘The Victory that Defined Scotland’s Irish diaspora.’ Yes, we do same great historic football stuff. The victory in question is Celtic 2 Inter Milan 1, on my tenth birthday, May 25, 1967, one of the greatest football matches in history, and one of the most remarkable triumphs. (My brother Graeme fell backwards into the fireplace when Tommy Gemmill scored!) The piece by Joseph Bradley is about the incredible impact on Scots Catholics of Irish descent, and the role it played in making them less marginalised in Scottish life. I will never tire of reading about, and watching, that game. ESPN recently showed the whole match. Quality.
- Wisden, the cricket bible, is one of the books of the week. Without real sport to watch, we need to read more about sport. When I say ‘we’ I mean people for whom live sport is on a par with air and water as an essential in life.
- Books Against The Bug. Charlie Connolly writes every week about books, and this week has a brilliant two-page analysis not just of the impact on publishing of the crisis, but a hilarious passage on the kind of ‘virus-related novels jamming the in-boxes of agents and publishers any time soon.’ The one on the breakdown of law and order on a pestilence-riddled cruise ship definitely has potential. Likewise the one about the Italian opera singer who takes to his balcony every night to sing to his neighbourhood …
- … and so to pages 40/41, Sophia Deboick on how Italians were relying on their shared musical heritage to get them through the crisis.
- Michael White, ex of The Guardian, has had a new lease of life at the paper, and has a superb analysis of why Boris Johnson needs to change his style and modus operandi, a theme I also address in my weekly column.
- Leighton Andrews, ex of the Welsh government, has unearthed a note Winston Churchill wrote to his War Cabinet on the subject of the need for ‘brevity’ in communications during a crisis, and analyses Johnson’s efforts with his hero’s note in mind. Andrews is not impressed.
- Mitch Benn on how Donald Trump’s comms are much, much worse than Johnson ‘s, or indeed anyone else, ever, in the history of time.
- A long read by Paul Knott on how the Chinese are using the fallout from the virus to accelerate the shift of power from West to East – we do good geopolitics at TNE.
- James Ball analyses the recent massive public spending announcements by Chancellor Rishi Sunak, and compellingly explains how ‘the sheer futility of austerity’ has been exposed.
- The revelation in the Mandrake column that Theresa May has raked in over £1m in speaker fees since she left office as one of the least achieving PMs in history. She has also had to declare as a perk worth £58,000 access to the VIP services at Heathrow. Allright for some, eh?
- Our resident American living in Britain columnist Bonnie Greer on how the buttoned up English should be well suited to the non-contact nature of social distancing.
- Peter Trudgill on regional accents. I love that kind of stuff. (Being an etymologist)
- Andrew Adonis quoting the Bible! To be specific, the Book of Proverbs: ‘Where there is no vision the people perish.’ Even for those of us who don’t do God, there is much in the Bible to help people right now.
- An actual decent quiz! I hate those quizzes that newspapers feel they have to do at Christmas, but Steve Anglesey’s 50-multiple choice bumper is excellent. My fave questions were these: 14) Which of these is not a fragrance endorsed by Donald Trump – a) Success by Trump; b) Greatness by Trump; c) Empire by Trump … 37) Which of these is not a genuine Rees-Mogg child? a) Dominic Wantage Monague Rufus; b)Thomas Wentworth Somerset Dunstan; c) Alfred Wulfric Leyton Plus …50) On how many occasions did Nigel Farage fail to be elected as an MP? a) 6; b) 7; c) 8 …
- Pages 46/47 in the paper is always a portrait of a Great European from the past (they must be dead), and earlier this month I was stopped by someone on Hampstead Heath who told me he had cut out every single one of them. (Publishers – opportunity alert) This week’s is of artist Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun (1755-1842). Can’t say I knew much about her. I do now
- Someone else who keeps every copy is reader Ian Auchterlonie, of Dundee, who has provided a picture for the letters page of said back copies now piled up in the loo as his response to the bog roll shortage crisis! …… More public service … what a paper!