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07 декабря, 12:00

Emma Thompson’s ludicrous Last Christmas is the perfect Brexit festive movie

The success of this film says quite a lot about Britain 2019So I’ve finally seen Last Christmas, the critically panned rom (ummm) com (errrr) written by Emma Thompson and Bryony Kimmings, and the first thing to say is, “Hooo boy.” The second thing is, “Whatever Emma was smoking when she came up with that movie’s plot twist, which has now ruined Wham! for ever, well, I’ll have what she’s having.” Actually, you know what? I’m all right, Emma. Keep it for yourself.Last Christmas is one of those films that is so deranged it feels like a strange fever dream. In this sense, it’s like the 80s comedy Mannequin, a charming romantic comedy about a man finding true love with a plastic doll. Or maybe it’s closer to Soul Man – another movie, like Last Christmas, that ruined a good song by stealing its title – in which a white kid takes a load of tanning pills in order to baggsie a Harvard scholarship for African Americans. Yes, this is a movie that actually exists. Continue reading...

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07 декабря, 12:00

Lady in Waiting by Anne Glenconner review – a bestselling glimpse of the royals

The candid life story of Princess Margaret’s aide, which has proved a publishing hit, provides insights into the aristocratic system and the real life behind The CrownNothing goes down better with a section of the British public than a posh old lady who isn’t afraid to talk dirty. It’s the contrast between the drawling vowels, blossomy complexion, sculpted cheekbones and sexual frankness that turns us into what Nanny would probably call “giggling ninnies”. Anne Glenconner, who at the age of 87 has published a bestselling memoir, was a big hit this autumn on The Graham Norton Show, Loose Women and all manner of breakfast television sofas. One of her plummiest anecdotes concerns her mother, Lady Coke, trying to explain sexual intercourse in terms of canine coupling. “Do you remember Daddy’s labrador getting on top of Biscuit? Well, that’s what happens when you get married and have sex, except you will probably be lying down in a bed.” Cue peals of shocked laughter from the studio audience.In fact, there’s nothing especially odd or even socially elevated about Lady Coke’s advice to her eldest girl on the eve of her 1956 marriage. Anne belonged to the generation of girls who were too young to have served in the WAAF and, instead of jitterbugging with young men, spent their chaste teenage years knitting socks for them. You didn’t need to have been brought up on the 27,000 acre Holkham Hall estate, nor been crowned “Deb of the Year” by Tatler, to have arrived at your courtship years without knowing much about men beyond a vague rule of thumb that some were “safe in taxis” while others most definitely were not. Continue reading...

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07 декабря, 12:00

Oceans losing oxygen at unprecedented rate, experts warn

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Sharks, tuna, marlin and other large fish at risk from spread of ‘dead zones’, say scientistsOxygen in the oceans is being lost at an unprecedented rate, with “dead zones” proliferating and hundreds more areas showing oxygen dangerously depleted, as a result of the climate emergency and intensive farming, experts have warned.Sharks, tuna, marlin and other large fish species were at particular risk, scientists said, with many vital ecosystems in danger of collapse. Dead zones – where oxygen is effectively absent – have quadrupled in extent in the last half-century, and there are also at least 700 areas where oxygen is at dangerously low levels, up from 45 when research was undertaken in the 1960s. Continue reading...

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07 декабря, 11:46

20 photographs of the week

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Wildfires in New South Wales, protests in Paris and Santiago, animal rights activists in Barcelona and violence in Mexico – the best photography in news, culture and sport from around the world this week Continue reading...

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07 декабря, 11:30

Christmas breakfast: Yotam Ottolenghi's ricotta and feta pancake recipe

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A luxurious but relatively uncomplicated festive breakfast that heralds flavours yet to come on the big dayIt’s Christmas morning – the pitter-patter of eager little feet has told me so – and the prospect of a grand feast is looming, but only one thing really matters right now: breakfast.Assigned to kitchen duty, I take it upon myself to make something special yet not terribly time-consuming. It gives us all the sustenance we need to power through the pre-dinner preparations, as well as a lovely precursor of flavours to come. Continue reading...

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07 декабря, 11:00

Daisy Ridley: ‘JJ Abrams warned me that Star Wars is a religion’

She was working in a pub when she was cast in the franchise. Six years and three movies later, is the force still strong?Daisy Ridley’s earliest childhood memory is of a party hosted by her parents at their family home in west London, when she was three, maybe four. She was surrounded by grownups, towering above her, when she abruptly and dramatically declared: “I’m shy!” before running out of the room. “My mum told me I did that, so maybe I’m remembering half an imprint of someone else’s memory,” she says, laughing at the irony of both commanding attention from her audience and then immediately rejecting it. It’s a trait that has somehow stuck.At 27, Ridley finds herself at the centre of the universe. With three Star Wars films under her belt, the actor is adjusting to multiple layers of fame: there’s the gilded A-list Hollywood kind that comes with red carpets, stylists and outfits gifted by the most sought-after designers; then the sort of fame that has tabloids tracking her most mundane moves, breathlessly documenting Ridley’s “brave” trip to the dry cleaner’s (with no makeup!) or strolling through London wearing – gasp – a daisy print skirt. And then, of course, there’s the fierce, cult-like superfan fame, where the force of millions of Star Wars obsessives will always be with her, the legacy of being plucked, as a fresh-faced 21-year-old unknown, by director JJ Abrams to play Rey, the scrappy scavenger mentored by Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). Continue reading...

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07 декабря, 11:00

The best soap bars for Christmas | Sali Hughes

So gentle, stylish and delicious-smelling that making the more responsible choice is far from sacrificialWarning, contains spoilers: this year I’m Christmas shopping with purpose, and hoping to convert my loved ones to solid bar soap. There is unarguably too much plastic in the world, woefully few refill services available (why? it doesn’t seem hard), and bar soaps are now so gentle, stylish and delicious-smelling that making the more responsible choice is far from sacrificial. Bar soap is covetable and cool, at last.Soapsmith is an independent British company focused on traditional craftsmanship and modern design. Soapmaker Sam Jameson – one of the growing number of young, black, female beauty brand founders – takes London as her inspiration, with scents named after her favourite spots in the capital. My favourite – if only in soap terms – is Marble Arch £10, 100g) a rich, fatty coconut and shea butter bar of comforting, feelgood orange, saffron and vanilla, handmade and wrapped in colourful, graphic recyclable paper. It gives you every reason to ditch handwash for good. Continue reading...

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07 декабря, 11:00

Frankie Boyle’s election countdown: 'You’ll be praying they prorogue the next parliament'

From a Dickensian Tory cabinet to the ghosts of Brexit promises past, the comedian brings you his take on the electionAs the body politic convulses, as the abyss avoids our gaze, we near the end of another election at the behest of a political class that has paid as much attention to David Cameron’s fixed terms as he did to people with emphysema slowly dying over a wood lathe. Christmas seems a strange time for a Tory government to call an election; possibly they guessed that it would be hard for Labour to sell hope in winter; possibly they judged that goodwill to all men would be at its lowest after people had endured a December of accidentally answering the door to a canvasser because they thought it was an Amazon package. Then again, Conservatives would say that the story of Christmas chimes with their values, as it involves a pregnant refugee being treated quite badly.Brexit supporters are surely among the most likely to get out and vote, especially now Jeremy Kyle isn’t on in the daytime any more. It was impossible to predict that the whole country would be thrown into crisis by middle-aged men outraged about Europe making decisions for them (these are people whose wives buy their socks), but I can understand their subsequent disillusionment. If 434 MPs vote for a general election, we instantly get one; if 0.14% of the populace vote for Boris Johnson, we instantly get him; but if 52% of the electorate vote for Brexit, they get three years of what feels like trying to shit out a pool table. Essentially, Brexit has proved impossible to deliver: turns out it’s tricky for English voters to take back control of their borders when one of them is in someone else’s country. Many people wish David Cameron had never called the referendum in the first place. It says a lot about how badly the last couple of years have gone, that there’s a guy who destroyed Libya, presided over needless austerity and fucked a pig, and we wish that he’d just used his own judgment. Continue reading...

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07 декабря, 11:00

England's last roar: Pankaj Mishra on nationalism and the election

Ideas of Englishness have long failed to adapt to loss of empire and national decline. Will this crucial UK election bring about a post-imperial day of reckoning?“We have got to fight against privilege,” George Orwell exhorted in 1941, “against the notion that a half-witted public schoolboy is better for command than an intelligent mechanic.” England, he wrote, is governed by an “unteachable” ruling class that too frequently escapes into “stupidity”, failing to see “that an economic system in which land, factories, mines and transport are owned privately and operated solely for profit ... does not work.”Only a socialist revolution, he continued, could unleash the “native genius of the English people”. Of course, “the bankers and the larger businessmen, the landowners and dividend-drawers, the officials with their prehensile bottoms, will obstruct for all they are worth”. But, never mind: “if the rich squeal audibly, so much the better”. Continue reading...

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07 декабря, 11:00

‘I lost my £193,000 inheritance – with one wrong digit on my sort code’

Peter Teich sent his cash to another Barclays customer, but offered it him just £25 as a token gestureIt is the stuff of financial nightmares. You get one digit wrong on the sort code, and send a huge amount of cash to the wrong person. They refuse to return it, and the bank washes its hands of the matter, blaming you for the mistake.That’s what happened to Peter Teich in a case that reveals shocking lapses in Britain’s banking system. Just hours after a solicitor sent the Cambridge resident his £193,000 inheritance after the death of his 100-year-old father, it became apparent that a terrible mistake had been made. Continue reading...

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07 декабря, 11:00

Tory vote share stays at peak of 42% a week to go before election day

Johnson’s polling mirrors that of May’s in 2017. No wonder the Conservative message is to warn against complacencyA week to go before the election and the Conservative vote appears to have peaked. The party’s share hit 42% about a fortnight ago and has not advanced since – a level that is intriguingly similar to the 42.34% result achieved by Theresa May in the last general election.The party now dominates the leave vote – with a 69% share according to ICM’s analysis published this week – following the effective surrender of Nigel Farage in the early part of the campaign. Essentially, the Conservatives’ five-point improvement during the campaign has been almost entirely at the Brexit party’s expense. Continue reading...

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07 декабря, 11:00

It’s not ‘free stuff’ – what Labour is really offering is universalism | Rachel Shabi

Ignore the cynics. Labour’s pledges on basic public services show the way towards a fairer, more efficient society“Do you accept that a lot of this free stuff that you’re talking about, it sort of reeks of desperation?”That question was put to Labour’s shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, on Radio 4’s World at One earlier this week. And it has become a typical response to the party’s raft of policies on issues ranging from adult social care to tuition fees, train fares to broadband. Continue reading...